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Computational and motivational mechanisms of human social decision making involving close others

Guassi Moreira, João F. and Tashjian, Sarah M. and Galván, Adriana and Silvers, Jennifer A. (2021) Computational and motivational mechanisms of human social decision making involving close others. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 93 . Art. No. 104086. ISSN 0022-1031.

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Every day, human beings make decisions with social consequences. These social consequences matter most when they impact those closest to us. Recent research has shown that humans exhibit reliable preferences when deciding between conflicting outcomes involving close others – for example, prioritizing the interests of one's family member over one's friend. However, virtually nothing is known about the mechanisms that drive these preferences. We conducted a pre-registered study in a large (maximum N = 375) sample to quantify the computational and motivational mechanisms of human social decision-making preferences involving close others. By pairing assessment techniques from behavioral economics and psychological science with computational modeling and random coefficient regression, we show that value-based cognitive computations (e.g., risk and loss aversion) drive social decision-making preferences involving financial outcomes, whereas socioemotional motivations (e.g., relationship quality) underlie preferences involving social outcomes. These results imply mechanistic heterogeneity, underscoring a need for greater attention to contextual specificity in social decision-making.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Paper ItemData
Tashjian, Sarah M.0000-0002-0946-6662
Additional Information:© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Received 11 June 2020, Revised 12 November 2020, Accepted 19 November 2020, Available online 7 January 2021. Preparation of the manuscript was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Fellow ID: 2016220797) and NIH T32 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship (5T32HD091059) to João F. Guassi Moreira. Gratitude is extended towards Maria Calderon, Liz Gaines, Casandra Gomez Alvarado, Agatha Handojo, Aviva Hirsch, Sakina Qadir, Eleni Rally, Salma Sudarmadji, Yael Waizman, and Tarran Walter for their assistance in data collection and QA. Author contributions: J. F. Guassi Moreira and J. A. Silvers developed the study concept with input from S. M. Tashjian. J. F. Guassi Moreira, and J. A. Silvers designed the study. Data were collected by J. F. Guassi Moreira. Data were prepared and analyzed by J. F. Guassi Moreira under the supervision of J. A. Silvers. All authors interpreted the results. J. F. Guassi Moreira drafted the first version of the manuscript with extensive input from J. A. Silvers. S. M. Tashjian, A. Galván, and J. A. Silvers all provided critical revisions. All the authors approved the final manuscript for submission. Open practices: All data and materials for this study, in addition to its pre-registration, can be accessed at the Open Science Framework (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship2016220797
NIH Predoctoral Fellowship5T32HD091059
Subject Keywords:Social decision-making; Close others; Motivation; Computational modeling; Discounting
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210311-143205337
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Official Citation:João F. Guassi Moreira, Sarah M. Tashjian, Adriana Galván, Jennifer A. Silvers, Computational and motivational mechanisms of human social decision making involving close others, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 93, 2021, 104086, ISSN 0022-1031, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108407
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:12 Mar 2021 18:46
Last Modified:12 Mar 2021 18:46

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