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Trust & Reciprocity: neural and psychological models of social cooperation (NeuroCooperation)
Start date: Mar 1, 2013, End date: Feb 28, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Novel interdisciplinary approaches offer an exciting avenue to study interactive decision-making by combining the methods of behavioral experiments, functional neuroimaging, and formal economic models. This project employs this approach to explore decision-making related to trust, reciprocity, cooperation and fairness in social interactive scenarios. These processes are vital for the successful functioning of society, but there have been relatively few studies of the mechanisms involved. This proposal will examine in detail the psychological and neural mechanisms behind these processes. Project 1 will investigate how we place trust in others, by using behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational modeling. The aims are to explore the influence of both automatically processed cues as well as the cognitive processes of learning from experience. Project 2 will investigate how we reciprocate trust, in particular the role of positive and negative emotions in this decision. The aim is to construct detailed, neurally-inspired models of this process, and test competing theories of reciprocation. Project 3 will explore the factors underlying cooperation between individuals and groups, particularly with relevance to the roles of reward, punishment and agency. Finally, Project 4 will investigate how our expectations of the world shape our responses to social situations. Social norms can have a large impact on our decisions, and we will build models that incorporate expectations and explore their neural correlates. Overall, this project can greatly enhance our knowledge of decision-making in social interactive contexts, with both theoretical and practical relevance. The innovative approach has the potential to advance our knowledge of existing theoretical accounts by constraining models based on the underlying neurobiology, and the knowledge gleaned can have a real impact on questions of public policy.
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