Tan, Jolene H.

Jolene H.

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Process Modeling in Social Decision Making

2016, Tan, Jolene H.

Understanding how the benefits of cooperation can be reaped while the risks of exploitation from other individuals can be managed has received significant research attention in the past few decades. However, despite its prominence, little is known about how we make these social decisions; it is unclear what decision processes underlie our interactions with others. My goal in this dissertation was to investigate the decision processes of social interactions. I adopted the perspective of the “adapted mind” and “bounded rationality” in order to investigate how humans solve the evolutionarily recurrent problems of social living under limitations of time, information, and computational ability. I combined these theoretical foundations with the methodology of cognitive process modeling, which enabled me to test fine- grained predictions about the underlying decision processes. In the introduction chapter, I provided a brief overview of some controversies in the field so as to provide the backdrop for the rest of the chapters. In the first chapter, I proposed a framework that can be used to qualify what is a cognitive process model. The framework contains necessary conditions that a model needs to fulfill in order to be considered a process model. The “how to” format of the chapter can serve as a guide for building process models. The second chapter is an exemplification of how process models can be used to study social decisions such as forgiveness. I developed and tested two models—the heuristic-based fast-and-frugal trees, and the linear model Franklin’s rule—and found that both models performed similarly well (accuracy of ~80% in description and ~70% in prediction). The third chapter extended the previous by examining how base rate information about the benevolence of the social environment is used in decisions about whether to forgive. I provided evidence that base rate information is used in forgiveness decisions and it is expressed as a level of social trust, a belief about whether people are generally benevolent or malevolent. Taken together, my dissertation advanced understanding about cooperation by specifying and testing the decision processes that underlie social interaction.