Cognition Workshop 03/08/23: Anita Restrepo and Eugene Yu Ji

Talk 1:Title: Loneliness intensifies acute feelings of social rejectionAnita Restrepo, Doctoral Student, Department of Psychology, University of ChicagoLoneliness, or perceived social isolation, is a psychological state where individuals feel unsafe since isolation from their social group leaves them vulnerable to external threats. As such, lonely individuals show hypervigilance to threat cues, particularly information about social threat. Because psychological states of perceived unsafety bias individuals to interpret ambiguous information as more threatening, we explored how the ambiguity of social cues moderated effects of loneliness on feelings of rejection after a social exclusion paradigm. An online sample of 142 adults completed a progressive, 5-round Cyberball ostracism paradigm where they were randomly assigned to either be equally included, excluded, or over-included. Importantly, ambiguity was highest in earlier rounds where exclusion/inclusion cues were unclear and systematically decreased from one round to the next. Participants completed the UCLA Loneliness Scale prior to beginning the task and responded to a brief questionnaire indexing feelings of rejection after each Cyberball round. Hierarchical linear models showed that higher loneliness predicted increased feelings of rejection across conditions (equal inclusion, exclusion, and over-inclusion). Notably, this positive relationship was strongest during earlier rounds when social cues were most ambiguous. These findings aid in integrating our understanding of loneliness within a larger stress response framework and how these systems modulate social perception to enable organisms to adequately adapt to changing circumstances.Talk 2:Title: A Metacognitive Framework for Modeling Authoritarian-led Reform via Dynamical SystemsEugene Yu Ji, Doctoral Student, Department of Psychology, University of ChicagoRecent studies in comparative politics propose that one most frequent economic or political reform path in many authoritarian states in East and Southeast Asia is a top-down, state-led process (e.g. Riedl et al. 2020; Slater and Wong 2022). This influential theory of state-led reform strongly relies on a behavioral assumption: the authoritarian state leadership concedes to a major political reform (such as democratization) when a tradeoff, “bittersweet” signal is cognized, which suggests both high pressures encouraging the reform and a prospect of achieving stability or flourishment after the reform. But in this literature, cognitive and behavioral mechanisms from cognition to decision making are far from being sufficiently explored. Using the dynamical-systems approach, my work proposes a metacognitive model of decision-making of authoritarian-led reform (which is formally inspired by the FitzHugh-Nagumo model in computational neuroscience). The model includes two basic variables of cognitive uncertainty: uncertainty in risk assessment (URA) and uncertainty in expected utility (UEU), and the model investigates the decision-making dynamics generated from four types of metacognition together: metacognitive self-feedback of URA, metacognitive self-feedback of UEU, metacognitive feedback from URA to UEU, and metacognitive feedback from UEU to URA. Current modeling results show that the metacognitively-informed decision-making process can lead to different “prospect trajectories”, which further lead to different equilibria of reform-related decision-making outcomes. Current empirical testing applies this model to examine historical and contemporary cases of major, minor, or no reform in six countries or regions in East and Southeast Asia, and the results demonstrate the effectiveness and potential of this new framework.

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