Expectation of reward can be shaped by the observation of actions and expressions of other people in one's environment. A person's apparent confidence in the likely reward of an action, for instance, makes qualities of their evidence, not observed directly, socially accessible. This strategy is computationally distinguished from associative learning methods that rely on direct observation, by its use of inference from indirect evidence. In twenty-three healthy human subjects, we isolated effects of first-hand experience, other people's choices, and the mediating effect of their confidence, on decision-making and neural correlates of value within ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Value derived from first-hand experience and other people's choices (regardless of confidence) were indiscriminately represented across vmPFC. However, value computed from agent choices weighted by their associated confidence was represented with specificity for ventromedial area 10. This pattern corresponds to shifts of connectivity and overlapping cognitive processes along a posterior-anterior vmPFC axis. Task behavior and self-reported self-reliance for decision-making in other social contexts correlated. The tendency to conform in other social contexts corresponded to increased activation in cortical regions previously shown to respond to social conflict in proportion to subsequent conformity (Campbell-Meiklejohn et al., 2010). The tendency to self-monitor predicted a selectively enhanced response to accordance with others in the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ). The findings anatomically decompose vmPFC value representations according to computational requirements and provide biological insight into the social transmission of preference and reassurance gained from the confidence of others.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Observational learning
- Ventromedial prefrontal cortex