• Thursday, June 25th 2020 at 16:00 - 17:00 UK (Other timezones)
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In our uncertain world, we often lack the information needed to make informed decisions. Learning to use efficient strategies to approach an uncertain environment is a major developmental challenge. Using social information is one example for a frequently used strategy that is acquired during adolescence. However frequently, social information leads adolescents into risky behaviours which potentially carry lifelong detrimental consequences for an individual. In order to attenuate these harmful behaviours, I argue that we first need to understand the determinants behind social influence on adolescent risk-taking. To date the nature of these determinants are heavily debated, but poorly understood.
In the first part of the talk, I present a project where we argue that this lack of understanding is partly due to a paucity of formal models in developmental research. We point out that current verbal models of social influence on adolescent risk-taking make predictions which are too unspecific in order to be accurately distinguished given any experimental paradigm. We proceed to develop formal models which translate commonly employed verbal models into formal equations grounded in expected utility theory and show how this quantitative approach can help to better negotiate between current theoretical positions on social influence in adolescent risk-taking.
In a second part of the talk, I focus on a project where we specifically investigate the role of uncertainty on social influence. Given that greater uncertainty leads to greater social influence, we test to what extend experienced uncertainty itself constitutes a mediator of social influence on risk-taking. I ask how this mediation might change across adolescence. To this end we developed a novel experimental risk-taking paradigm which gives subjects the the possibility for social learning under different uncertainty levels. We combine these experiments with specifications of Bayesian models of cognition, which can quantify an individual???s uncertainty and show how uncertainty and social influence concurrently decrease during development. We show that uncertainty and social influence are correlated and that both concurrently decline during development.

Simon Ciranka
International Max Planck Research School
Max Planck Institute for Human Development Center for Adaptive Rationality
UCL Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research

Simon Ciranka – Using formal models to understand social influence and risk-taking during adolescence