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Social anxiety and dynamic social reinforcement learning in a volatile environment.


ABSTRACT: Adaptive social behavior requires learning probabilities of social reward and punishment, and updating these probabilities when they change. Given prior research on aberrant reinforcement learning in affective disorders, this study examines how social anxiety affects probabilistic social reinforcement learning and dynamic updating of learned probabilities in a volatile environment. N=222 online participants completed questionnaires and a computerized ball-catching game with changing probabilities of reward and punishment. Dynamic learning rates were estimated to assess the relative importance ascribed to new information in response to volatility. Mixed-effects regression was used to analyze throw patterns as a function of social anxiety symptoms. Higher social anxiety predicted fewer throws to the previously punishing avatar and different learning rates after certain role changes, suggesting that social anxiety may be characterized by difficulty updating learned social probabilities. Socially anxious individuals may miss the chance to learn that a once-punishing situation no longer poses a threat.

SUBMITTER: Beltzer ML 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7451209 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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