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Outstanding achievement by Ali Mahmoodi

April 26, 2019: The Bernstein Center Freiburg would like to congratulate Ali Mahmoodi on his distinguished doctorate on “Behavioural and Neural Basis of Social Influence”.

Outstanding achievement by Ali Mahmoodi

Ali Mahmoodi

Now the young scientist has moved to the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford and will investigate the neurobiology of social decision-making in humans and primates. The Bernstein Center Freiburg would like to wish Ali Mahmoodi all the best for his next career step.

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Behavioural and Neural Basis of Social Influence

An important question in human social interaction is how people weigh others’ opinions. While in informational social influence, the goal of advice taking is to maximise accuracy, in normative social influence, the goal of aligning oneself to other people’s choices is to get affiliated with them and build a good relationship with others. Humans tend to reciprocate in their interaction with others. However, the role of reciprocity in social influence is unknown.

In the second chapter of his thesis, I reported on our investigation of the role of reciprocity in human social interaction. We found that humans do reciprocate influence with others: participants were more influenced by partners which were more susceptible to the participants’ decisions. Inversely, they reciprocally ignored those who ignored them in previous rounds. With further experiments, we showed that reciprocity disappeared when participants were told that their partner is a computer.

These results suggest that human advice taking, to some extent, is influenced by normative goals of social influence. In a follow-up study, we investigated the role and the neural basis of human confidence in the process of advice taking. We found that people’s susceptibility to other people’s estimate is proportional to their own confidence. We then investigated the neural basis of confidence during a change of mind in social decision making using fMRI. The blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signal in the cingulate cortex was modulated by participants’ previously reported confidence at the time of their change of mind.

In the third study, we asked whether the performance of others affects how we assess our own performance. We found that participants overestimated their performance when their partner’s stimulus estimates were less accurate than their own stimulus estimates and underestimated their performance when their partner’s stimulus estimates were more accurate. Correspondingly, participants decreased their confidence when their partner had superior accuracy and increased it when their partner had inferior accuracy relative to them.


Read also
Original Publication
Mahmoodi A.; Bahrami B. & Mehring, C. (2018) Reciprocity of social influence. Nature Communications 9, Article number: 2474

News Item
Reciprocity of social influence: Who do we take advice from and why?

Contact
Ali Mahmoodi
via
Prof. Dr. Carsten Mehring
University of Freiburg
Bernstein Center Freiburg & Faculty of Biology
Hansastraße 9a
79104 Freiburg, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)761 203 9316
E-mail: carsten.mehring@biologie.uni-freiburg.de

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