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Journal Article

Humans Use Forward Thinking to Exert Social Control


Dayan,  P
Department of Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Na, S., Chung, D., Jung, J., Hula, A., Fiore, V., Dayan, P., et al. (in press). Humans Use Forward Thinking to Exert Social Control. Neuron, Epub ahead. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3443690.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-C3BC-C
Social control, the ability to exert influence over others, is critical in interpersonal interactions yet uninvestigated. Here, we used functional neuroimaging and a social exchange paradigm in which people’s current choices either did, or did not, influence their partners’ proposals in the future. Computational modeling revealed that participants used forward thinking and calculated the downstream effects of their current actions regardless of the controllability of the social environment. Furthermore, greater levels of estimated control correlated with better performance in controllable interactions and less illusory beliefs about control in uncontrollable interactions. Neural instantiation of trial-by-trial values of social controllability were tracked in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), striatum, and insula for controllable interactions, but only in vmPFC for uncontrollable interactions. These findings demonstrate that humans use forward thinking, a strategy similar to model-based planning, to guide social choices; and that subjective beliefs about social controllability might not be grounded in reality.