Knowing whom to learn from: individual differences in metacognition and weighting of social information

Social learning enables us to acquire skills and knowledge more efficiently, provided that we learn from the right others. However, little is known about the cognitive factors that determine who we decide to learn from and how much we benefit from such learning. Here we address this question using a perceptual task where participants had the opportunity to revise their responses (choice bout a noisy stimulus and confidence in this choice being correct) in light of the responses made by two advisors of different reliability. We found consistent individual differences in the weights assigned to the social sources, and in the benefit obtained from the social sources – factors which we collectively refer to as Social Weighting Sensitivity (SWS). We also found that an individual’s metacognition predicted SWS, with participants who were overconfident about their performance listening less to and benefiting less from social information. Finally, at the trial level, we found that participants adjusted the reliance on social information in light of the response and feedback history, indicating that they formed metacognitive estimates about the social sources. Our study highlights the importance of metacognition and SWS in human social learning.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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