The Social Transmission of Threat and Safety
In rapidly changing environments, humans and other animals often glean information about the value of objects and behaviors through social learning. In contrast to learning from direct, personal experiences, little is known about the mechanisms underlying social transmission of information, for example, trough observing others' emotional expressions. The speaker will discuss studies that use behavioral brain imaging and pharmacological techniques examining various forms of social emotional learning. The focus will be on observational threat, avoidance and safety learning. Consistent with research across species, the results of the studies conducted by the speaker and his colleagues show that these forms of social learning draw on processes partially shared with direct conditioning and extinction learning. However, the outcome of social learning is distinguished by its dependence on social information. The study of social learning is fundamental to our understanding of the spread of both adaptive and non-adaptive emotional information between individuals, as well as in networks and societies.