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In a large variety of contexts, it is essential to use the available information to extract patterns and behave accordingly. When it comes to social interactions for instance, the information gathered about interaction partners across multiple encounters (e.g., trustworthiness) is crucial in guiding one's own behavior (e.g., approach the trustworthy and avoid the untrustworthy), a process akin to trial-by-trial learning. Building on associative learning and social cognition literatures, the present research adopts a domain-general approach to learning and explores whether the principles underlying associative learning also govern learning in social contexts. In particular, we examined whether overshadowing, a well-established cue-competition phenomenon, impacts learning of the cooperative behaviors of unfamiliar interaction partners. Across three experiments using an adaptation of the iterated Trust Game, we consistently observed a 'social overshadowing' effect, that is, a better learning about the cooperative tendencies of partners presented alone compared to those presented in a pair. This robust effect was not modulated by gender stereotypes or beliefs about the internal communication dynamics within a pair of partners. Drawing on these results, we argue that examining domain-general learning processes in social contexts is a useful approach to understanding human social cognition.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychon Bull Rev

Publication Date



Cooperation, Learning, Overshadowing, Stereotypes, Trust