Chapter

The Advice of Others: When and How We Benefit From It

Guido Biele and Jörg Rieskamp

in Simple Heuristics in a Social World

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195388435
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950089 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388435.003.0013

Series: Evolution and Cognition Series

The Advice of Others: When and How We Benefit From It

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Social learning is fundamental to human cultural evolution and an important aspect of social rationality. This chapter examines how advice influences decision making and learning. A brief review of the advice-taking literature shows that people seldom have full insight into the reasons for the usefulness of advice; nevertheless, they often successfully use advice to improve judgments. To investigate the effect of advice on learning from experience, participants of two experiments performed a four-armed bandit task in which they tried to find the best of four choice options. Before the task, they received trustworthy advice about which option is most beneficial. The results revealed a sustained effect of advice, so that the recommended option was preferred over the nonrecommended options, even if the nonrecommended option led to the same average reward. Surprisingly, this effect of advice lasted for more than 100 learning trials. The comparison of social learning models, incorporating different assumptions about the influence of advice on learning, showed that social learning was best explained by the outcome-bonus model. This model assumes that rewards from recommended options are evaluated more favorably than those from nonrecommended options. An additional simulation study revealed the social rationality of this outcome-bonus model, because it accumulated more rewards in the learning task than alternative models. In sum, these results suggest that people combine advice with individual learning in an adaptive manner.

Keywords: social learning; advice; reinforcement learning; decision making; judgment; model comparison

Chapter.  8552 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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