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The understanding of developing social brain functions during infancy relies on research that has focused on studying how infants engage in first-person social interactions or view individual agents and their actions. Behavioral research suggests that observing and learning from third-party social interactions plays a foundational role in early social and moral development. However, the brain systems involved in observing third-party social interactions during infancy are unknown. The current study tested the hypothesis that brain systems in prefrontal and temporal cortex, previously identified in adults and children, begin to specialize in third-party social interaction processing during infancy. Infants (N = 62), ranging from 6 to 13 months in age, had their brain responses measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) while viewing third-party social interactions and two control conditions, infants viewing two individual actions and infants viewing inverted social interactions. The results show that infants preferentially engage brain regions localized within the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex when viewing third-party social interactions. These findings suggest that brain systems processing third-party social interaction begin to develop early in human ontogeny and may thus play a foundational role in supporting the interpretation of and learning from social interactions.
Effective planning involves knowing where different actions take us. However natural environments are rich and complex, leading to an exponential increase in memory demand as a plan grows in depth. One potential solution is to filter out features of the environment irrelevant to the task at hand. This enables a shared model of transition dynamics to be used for planning over a range of different input features. Here, we asked human participants (13 male, 16, female) to perform a sequential decision-making task, designed so that knowledge should be integrated independently of the input features (visual cues) present in one case but not in another. Participants efficiently switched between using a low (cue independent) and a high (cue specific) dimensional representation of state transitions. fMRI data identified the medial temporal lobe as a locus for learning state transitions. Within this region, multivariate patterns of BOLD responses as state associations changed (via trial-by-trial learning) were less correlated between trials with differing input features in the high compared to the low dimensional case, suggesting that these patterns switched between separable (specific to input features) and shared (invariant to input features) transition models. Finally, we show that transition models are updated more strongly following the receipt of positive compared to negative outcomes, a finding that challenges conventional theories of planning. Together, these findings propose a computational and neural account of how information relevant for planning can be shared and segmented in response to the vast array of contextual features we encounter in our world.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:Effective planning involves maintaining an accurate model of which actions take us to which locations. But in a world awash with information, mapping actions to states with the right level of complexity is critical. Using a new decision-making "heist task" in conjunction with computational modelling and fMRI we show that patterns of BOLD responses in the medial temporal lobe - a brain region key for prospective planning - become less sensitive to the presence of visual features when these are irrelevant to the task at hand. By flexibly adapting the complexity of task state representations in this way, state-action mappings learned under one set of features can be used to plan in the presence of others.
Interview with Asifa Majid, who studies language, culture and cognition at the University of Oxford.
School-based screening for childhood anxiety problems and intervention delivery: a codesign approach.
OBJECTIVES: A very small proportion of children with anxiety problems receive evidence-based treatment. Barriers to access include difficulties with problem identification, concerns about stigma and a lack of clarity about how to access specialist services and their limited availability. A school-based programme that integrates screening to identify those children who are most likely to be experiencing anxiety problems with the offer of intervention has the potential to overcome many of these barriers. This article is a process-based account of how we used codesign to develop a primary school-based screening and intervention programme for child anxiety problems. DESIGN: Codesign. SETTING: UK primary schools. PARTICIPANTS: Data were collected from year 4 children (aged 8-9 years), parents, school staff and mental health practitioners. RESULTS: We report how the developed programme was experienced and perceived by a range of users, including parents, children, school staff and mental health practitioners, as well as how the programme was adapted following user feedback. CONCLUSIONS: We reflect on the mitigation techniques we employed, the lessons learnt from the codesign process and give recommendations that may inform the development and implementation of future school-based screening and intervention programmes.
The strength of an association between a cue and its outcome is influenced by both the probability of the outcome given the cue and the probability of the outcome in the absence of the cue. Once an association has been formed, extinction is the procedure for reducing responding indicative of the association by repeated presentation of the cue without the outcome. The present experiments tested whether cumulative frequency and/or cumulative duration of these events affects associative extinction in a streamed trial extinction procedure with human participants. Experiment 1 assessed the effects of parametric manipulations of the frequency and duration of either the cue by itself or cue-outcome coabsence. In Experiment 1, participants proved relatively insensitive to manipulation of the event’s duration. In contrast, judgments of the association by participants decreased when the frequency of cue-alone events was increased, even when the durations of those events were decreased so that cumulative exposure to the cue was equated. No effect of either the duration or the frequency of cue-outcome coabsence was observed. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the effect of cue-alone (i.e., extinction trial) frequency generalizes across a wide range of parameters for initial acquisition achieved by cue-outcome pairings. Experiment 3 tested for an interaction between event duration during initial learning and event duration during extinction. Collectively, these results indicate that the cumulative frequency, and not the cumulative duration, of extinction trials as well as the duration of the cue-outcome coabsences between extinction trials controls the effectiveness of an extinction procedure.
For people with aphantasia, visual imagery is absent or markedly impaired. Here, we investigated the relationship between aphantasia and two other neurodevelopmental conditions also linked to imagery differences: synaesthesia, and autism. In Experiment 1a and 1b, we asked whether aphantasia and synaesthesia can co-occur, an important question given that synaesthesia is linked to strong imagery. Taking grapheme-colour synaesthesia as a test case, we found that synaesthesia can be objectively diagnosed in aphantasics, suggesting visual imagery is not necessary for synaesthesia to occur. However, aphantasia influenced the type of synaesthesia experienced (favouring 'associator' over 'projector' synaesthesia - a distinction tied to the phenomenology of the synaesthetic experience). In Experiment 2, we asked whether aphantasics have traits associated with autism, an important question given that autism - like aphantasia - is linked to weak imagery. We found that aphantasics reported more autistic traits than controls, with weaknesses in imagination and social skills.
Understanding how people rate their confidence is critical for the characterization of a wide range of perceptual, memory, motor and cognitive processes. To enable the continued exploration of these processes, we created a large database of confidence studies spanning a broad set of paradigms, participant populations and fields of study. The data from each study are structured in a common, easy-to-use format that can be easily imported and analysed using multiple software packages. Each dataset is accompanied by an explanation regarding the nature of the collected data. At the time of publication, the Confidence Database (which is available at https://osf.io/s46pr/) contained 145 datasets with data from more than 8,700 participants and almost 4 million trials. The database will remain open for new submissions indefinitely and is expected to continue to grow. Here we show the usefulness of this large collection of datasets in four different analyses that provide precise estimations of several foundational confidence-related effects.
Musical and Non-Musical Sounds Influence the Flavour Perception of Chocolate Ice Cream and Emotional Responses
Auditory cues, such as real-world sounds or music, influence how we perceive food. The main aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of negatively and positively valenced mixtures of musical and non-musical sounds on the affective states of participants and their perception of chocolate ice cream. Consuming ice cream while listening to liked music (LM) and while listening to the combination of liked music and pleasant sound (LMPS) conditions gave rise to more positive emotions than listening to just pleasant sound (PS). Consuming ice cream during the LM condition resulted in the longest duration of perceived sweetness. On the other hand, PS and LMPS conditions resulted in cocoa dominating for longer. Bitterness and roasted were dominant under the disliked music and unpleasant sound (DMUS) and DM conditions respectively. Positive emotions correlated well with the temporal sensory perception of sweetness and cocoa when consuming chocolate ice cream under the positively valenced auditory conditions. In contrast, negative emotions were associated with bitter and roasted tastes/flavours under the negatively valenced auditory conditions. The combination of pleasant music and non-musical sound conditions evoked more positive emotions than when either was presented in isolation. Taken together, the results of this study support the view that sensory attributes correlated well with emotions evoked when consuming ice cream under different auditory conditions varying in terms of their valence.
The last decade has seen renewed concern within the scientific community over the reproducibility and transparency of research findings. This paper outlines some of the various responsibilities of stakeholders in addressing the systemic issues that contribute to this concern. In particular, this paper asserts that a united, joined-up approach is needed, in which all stakeholders, including researchers, universities, funders, publishers, and governments, work together to set standards of research integrity and engender scientific progress and innovation. Using two developments as examples: the adoption of Registered Reports as a discrete initiative, and the use of open data as an ongoing norm change, we discuss the importance of collaboration across stakeholders.
Stage 1 Registered Report: How responsibility attributions to self and others relate to outcome ownership in group decisions.
Responsibility judgements have important consequences in human society. Previous research focused on how someone's responsibility determines the outcome they deserve, for example, whether they are rewarded or punished. Here, we investigate the opposite link: How outcome ownership influences responsibility attributions in a social context. Participants in a group of three perform a majority vote decision-making task between gambles that can lead to a reward or no reward. Only one group member receives the outcome and participants evaluate their and the other players' responsibility for the obtained outcome. Two hypotheses are tested: 1) Whether outcome ownership increases responsibility attributions even when the control over an outcome is similar. 2) Whether people's tendency to attribute higher responsibility for positive vs negative outcomes will be stronger for players who received the outcome. The findings of this study may help reveal how credit attributions can be biased toward particular individuals who receive outcomes as a result of collective work.