Neural representations of social and non-social uncertainty in human decision making

De Luca, Emanuele (2015) Neural representations of social and non-social uncertainty in human decision making. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The social landscape is filled with an intricate web of species-specific desired objects and course of actions. Humans are highly social animals and, as they navigate this landscape, they need to produce adapted decision-making behaviour. Traditionally social and non-social neural mechanisms affecting choice have been investigated using different approaches. Recently, in an effort to unite these findings, two main theories have been proposed to explain how the brain might encode social and non-social motivational decision-making: the extended common currency and the social valuation specific schema (Ruff & Fehr 2014). One way to test these theories is to directly compare neural activity related to social and non-social decision outcomes within the same experimental setting. Here we address this issue by focusing on the neural substrates of social and non-social forms of uncertainty.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we directly compared the neural representations of reward and risk prediction and errors (RePE and RiPE) in social and non- social situations using gambling games. We used a trust betting game to vary uncertainty along a social dimension (trustworthiness), and a card game (Preuschoff et al. 2006) to vary uncertainty along a non-social dimension (pure risk). The trust game was designed to maintain the same structure of the card game. In a first study, we exposed a divide between subcortical and cortical regions when comparing the way these regions process social and non-social forms of uncertainty during outcome anticipation. Activity in subcortical regions reflected social and non-social RePE, while activity in cortical regions correlated with social RePE and non-social RiPE. The second study focused on outcome delivery and integrated the concept of RiPE in non-social settings with that of fairness and monetary utility maximisation in social settings. In particular these results corroborate recent models of anterior insula function (Singer et al. 2009; Seth 2013), and expose a possible neural mechanism that weights fairness and uncertainty but not monetary utility. The third study focused on functionally defined regions of the early visual cortex (V1) showing how activity in these areas, traditionally considered only visual, might reflect motivational prediction errors in addition to known perceptual prediction mechanisms (den Ouden et al 2012).
On the whole, while our results do not support unilaterally one or the other theory modeling the underlying neural dynamics of social and non-social forms of decision making, they provide a working framework where both general mechanisms might coexist.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Neuroeconomics, decision-making, game theory, social neuroscience, neuroimaging, fMRI, reward risk prediction error, fairness, primary visual areas, V1, anterior insula.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QP Physiology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering
Funder's Name: Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Supervisor's Name: Muckli, Professor Lars
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Emanuele De Luca
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7435
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2016 07:51
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2016 15:28

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