New paper accepted in Scientific Reports

New paper accepted in Scientific Reports

I Selbing, A Olsson: Beliefs about others’ abilities alter learning from observation. In: Scientific Reports, 2017.


Learning what is dangerous by observing others can be safer and more efficient than individual learning. The efficiency of observational learning depends on how observational information is used, something we propose depends on our beliefs’ about others. Here, we investigated how described and actual abilities of another individual (a demonstrator) influenced performance and psychophysiology during learning of an observational avoidance task. Participants were divided into two groups. In each group there were two demonstrators who were described as either high (Described-High group) or low (Described-Low group) in their ability to learn the task. In both groups, one demonstrator had a high ability (Actual-High) and the other had a low ability (Actual-Low) to learn. Participants performed worse in the Described-Low compared to the Described-High group. Pupil dilation, and behavioral data in combination with reinforcement learning modeling, suggested that the described ability influenced performance by affecting the level of attention towards the observational information. Skin conductance responses and pupil dilation provided us with a separate measure of learning in addition to choice behavior.

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