[Analyse] Social cognition

This project aims to understand the social cognition foundations of social preferences as they pertain specifically to cooperative behaviour.

The theory and empirics of decision-making have undergone a revolution  in the economic literature over the past few decades. One of the main conclusions of this line of research has been that individuals’ decising-making is not simply based upon a cost-benefit analysis but is also a function of their problems of cognition. These “problems of cognition” include individuals’ attention, perception, evaluation, interpretation, classification etc. (see for example Rabin, 2013). In evaluating an action, an individual relies on mental short-cuts based on innate cognitive structures, interpretative frameworks resulting from his or her life history and his or her social context and social norms.

A similar revolution is required in order to understand the origins of social preferences, and this can only be achieved through a comprehensive analysis of social cognition. Thus far, the literature has mainly focused on biological factors or evolutionary modeling (Fehr, 2009). Examining social cognitive reactions permits a deeper and complementary understanding of the determinants of social preferences. For example, Declerk et al. (2012) proposed that the motivation to reciprocate could be substantiated by two systems: an executive control system (decision making abilities, inhibitions) and a social cognition system that processes social signals sent by others (such as trust or threat cues). Thus, theoretically, good performances during executive control and social perceptive tasks should be associated with high levels of cooperative behaviour.

The aim of this project is therefore to investigate the social cognition foundations of social preferences by measuring two main skills identified in cognitive sciences: empathy-emotion (DeWall et al., 2009) and perspective-taking (Dumontheil, 2010).

Research article