How conformity can lead to polarised social behaviour

Folco Panizza, Alexander Vostroknutov, Giorgio Coricelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Learning social behaviour of others strongly influences one’s own social attitudes. We com-pare several distinct explanations of this phenomenon, testing their predictions using computational modelling across four experimental conditions. In the experiment, participants chose repeatedly whether to pay for increasing (prosocial) or decreasing (antisocial) the earnings of an unknown other. Halfway through the task, participants predicted the choices of an extremely prosocial or antisocial agent (either a computer, a single participant, or a group of participants). Our analyses indicate that participants polarise their social attitude mainly due to normative expectations. Specifically, most participants conform to presumed demands by the authority (vertical influence), or because they learn that the observed human agents follow the norm very closely (horizontal influence)
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019


  • social norms
  • observational learning
  • social decision-making
  • computational modelling
  • social influence

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