Bayesian Inference of Social Norms as Shared Constraints on Behavior

AbstractPeople act upon their desires, but often, also act in adherence to implicit social norms. How do people infer these unstated social norms from others' behavior, especially in novel social contexts? We propose that laypeople have intuitive theories of social norms as behavioral constraints shared across different agents in the same social context. We formalize inference of norms using a Bayesian Theory of Mind approach, and show that this computational approach provides excellent predictions of how people infer norms in two scenarios. Our results suggest that people separate the influence of norms and individual desires on others' actions, and have implications for modelling generalizations of hidden causes of behavior.

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