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PhD studentship at Glasgow: Neural and computational principles underlying social vs non-social decision making

Neural and computational principles underlying social vs non-social decision making [Scottish Graduate School of Social Science ESRC studentship]

Most strategic decisions occur under considerable uncertainty. For example, when investing in the stock market, a trader may use purely probabilistic models to estimate risk in the market’s fluctuations. In contrast, when negotiating a deal in person, the trader’s risk assessment may rely instead on how trustworthy the other party appears. In standard utility models, the rules governing such decisions are the same, regardless of the source of uncertainty (e.g. human vs on-line platform). However, recent advances in social neuroscience suggest that separate brain networks might distinctly process probabilistic and social information, possibly leading to different outcomes. To date, there is no unified framework for integrating social and non-social sources of decision uncertainty as previous studies looked at these factors in isolation. This shortcoming is mainly due to the interdisciplinary nature of the endeavour, which requires major methodological developments in experimental design and brain analytics.

Here, we will combine two popular brain imaging techniques (EEG-fMRI), with novel experimental design and computational modelling to obtain information on when, where and how the brain processes social and non-social information during decision-making. We will investigate two different phases of the decision process: (1) the choice-phase, where decision alternatives are evaluated and compared to guide action and (2) the outcome-phase, where expected reward and risk signals are computed to update future expectations. We will model the integration of social and non-social forms of uncertainty at each stage and characterise the computational principles of the relevant neural systems. In doing so, we will place new, neurobiologically-derived, constraints on decision-theoretic models of information integration.

This PhD studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. The programme will commence in October 2019.

For details of this project with Dr Marios Philiastides at the University of Glasgow, go to https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/neural-and-computational-principles-underlying-social-vs-non-social-decision-making/

The deadline for application is 5 April 2019