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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Goal-directed, habitual and Pavlovian prosocial behavior

Filip Gęsiarz and Molly J. Crockett
Front. Behav. Neurosci., 27 May 2015


In this review we summarized evidence showing how the RLDM framework can integrate diverse findings describing what motivates prosocial behaviors. We suggested that the goal-directed system, given sufficient time and cognitive resources, weighs the costs of prosocial behaviors against their benefits, and chooses the action that best serves one’s goals, whether they be to merely maintain a good reputation or to genuinely enhance the welfare of another. We also suggested that to appreciate some of the benefits of other-regarding acts, such as the possibility of reciprocity, agents must have a well-developed theory of mind and an ability to foresee the cumulative value of future actions—both of which seem to involve model-based computations.

Furthermore, we reviewed findings demonstrating that the habitual system encodes the consequences of social interactions in the form of prediction errors and uses these signals to update the expected value of actions. Repetition of prosocial acts, resulting in positive outcomes, gradually increases their expected value and can lead to the formation of prosocial habits, which are performed without regard to their consequences. We speculated that the expected value of actions on a subjective level might be experienced as a ‘warm glow’ (Andreoni, 1990), linking our proposition to the behavioral economics literature. We also suggested that the notion of prosocial habits shares many features of the social heuristics hypothesis (Rand et al., 2014), implying that the habitual system could be a possible neurocognitive mechanism explaining the expression of social heuristics.

Finally, we have posited that the Pavlovian system, in response to another’s distress cues, evokes an automatic approach response towards stimuli enhancing another’s well-being—even if that response brings negative consequences.

The entire article is here.