Social information and person perception

Social information and person perception. I mapped the social network in two freshman dormitories at Stanford University, and identified individuals who were frequently nominated as socially valuable (i.e., sources of friendship, empathy, and support) by their peers (Morelli, Leong et al., PNAS, in press). A subset of the students were then scanned as they passively viewed photos of their dorm-mates. The pattern of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex was distinct when viewing photos of individuals high in social value, even after controlling for the participant’s own relationship with the viewed individual and even though participants were not directed to focus on social value. These results provide an example of how social expectations spontaneously modulate person perception. In other behavioral work, I showed that social expectations also biases how people learn about others, which then leads them to continue trusting others’ advice despite repeated feedback indicating that the advice is inaccurate (Leong & Zaki, JEP: General, 2018). Taken together, this line of work work demonstrates the pervasive influence of social expectations on information processing.