Research Area C - Interacting with others

C01Activities such as joint play, hunting or foraging involve the use of shared information (e.g., about actions of others), and require the representation and integration of social and sensory information to guide the agents’ actions. We will establish a formal theory and analysis framework for dyadic continuous perceptual report tasks employed in this CRC. We will construct models for the formation and optimal integration of representations for sensory and social information in a pair of mutually interacting agents, construct methods for the data-driven inference of inter-agent coupling and behavioural dynamics in the presence of temporal and inter-individual variability, and theoretically predict optimal reporting strategies to optimise expected reward for cooperative vs. competitive settings.

C02We will investigate how the presence and actions of a partner impact decisions of an individual and how person-related factors shape the dynamic processes in dyadic interactions. We will obtain individual levels of steroid hormones, personality traits, general cognitive as well as socio-emotional abilities to test if these factors can explain tendencies in social decision making. We will continuously record eye-movement and use automated video analyses of facial expressions to align these recordings with brain potentials, providing insight into the encoding, decoding and integration of social cues in interactive dyadic decision making.

C03Understanding the relation between postnatal brain development and neurofunctional changes in basic social, motor, perceptual, and prelinguistic domains will open a unique window for deciphering the ontogenesis of the complex social-cognitive faculty. With this project, we will research a cohort of neurotypical infants during their first four months of life and delineate the emergence of intentional social engagement in its developmental context. This project taps on the ontogenetically youngest and most fundamental forms of social reciprocity as the foundation for complex social cognition and interaction.

C04Children are selective about which objects in their environment they pay more attention to and learn more about. This selective attention is likely to be influenced by what their partners in social interactions are currently engaged with. Here, we examine children’s learning of novel word-object associations in tasks, where children can see which objects their partners chose to learn more about and the extent to which such transparent interactions influence children’s exploration of the same objects. The aim of the project is to examine the characterisation of learning as a dynamic interaction between the child and the social context in which learning takes place.

C05During social foraging individuals need to decide which food item to collect in view of others‘ decisions. We will investigate the spatial-cognitive processes and neural computations of action value in fronto-parietal cortices of rhesus monkeys when non-social (food location) and social (partner location) information have to be integrated during foraging. We will study (i) the spatial-cognitive encoding of the partner location and (ii) the encoding of action value associated with each food source. This study will help understanding how spatial-cognitive factors and action value are dynamically integrated in fronto-parietal decision circuits during dyadic interactions.

C06To characterise design principles of information sharing and inference in a social group we will expand and study a novel family of theoretical models of group foraging, which regards conspecifics as sources of information. We will then extend our receptive field like models and maximum entropy based models of collective behaviour to characterize social learning and dynamics of group foraging and learning tasks in the lab and in the wild, studied by experimental groups in the CRC. Further, we will use a new family of statistical models to characterise and analyse the activity patterns of large neural populations recorded from monkey cortex during lab experiments.