Investigating Social Learning and Inference Mechanisms in Asymmetric Social Exchanges
Rebecca Saxe, Ph.D.
Amrita earned her B.Sc. in Psychology & Neuroscience from the University of Toronto and received her M.A. from William & Mary. During her doctoral training at Brown University, Amrita integrated social neuroscience with Reinforcement Learning and Bayesian Inference models to examine how humans learn about the statistics of their social world. Using this approach, Amrita’s Ph.D. work identified altered social learning mechanisms in people with generalized anxiety.
Our social environments are highly complex and dynamic, so we rely on flexible and adaptive social learning to help us navigate through these exchanges. Psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders can impact people’s abilities to form and navigate social relationships, with serious consequences for well-being. A key component of social learning is managing complex interpersonal tensions because social interactions often involve asymmetric power dynamics, such that one person usually stands to gain more from the interaction than the other. My current project will use a novel paradigm—the asymmetric social exchange task— to investigate how learning is impacted when individuals occupy different roles in an asymmetric power dynamic. I will formalize learning by integrating game-theoretic and Reinforcement Learning models and will examine how these learning processes are neurally instantiated using fMRI. Individual variability in managing asymmetric relationships may also represent a distinct feature of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders known to impact social functioning, such as anxiety and autism spectrum disorder, which I will investigate as next steps.
social learning, asymmetric social relationships, Reinforcement Learning, game theory, fMRI