Social Value Learning Shifts Conceptual Representations of Faces

AbstractValues drive our behavioral choices. Ample research has explored the cognitive and neural underpinnings of value-based computations related to decision-making. However, behaviorally relevant values that we associate with real-world objects are often not monetary. For instance, social values associated with specific people are crucial for social behaviors and interactions. Moreover, understanding and attributing social values allows for proper evaluations of potential interactions with others, and can lead to more beneficial social behaviors and relationships. Learning social values has been shown to recruit the same systems as reward values, however how they become associated with specific people remains to be established. The present study examined social value learning of other people using naturalistic face images. We found that before learning, distances between the faces in conceptual similarity spaces were organized corresponding to their perceptual similarity. However, after learning, faces were shifted in a manner that reflected similarity of their associated social values (generosity). Furthermore, distances were positively correlated with a post-learning index of preference to interact with a person in a future cooperative game. In other words, learned social values of the faces seemed to influence their representations in conceptual space, and such representational changes were related to propensities in future behavior.

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