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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00679

Regimes of Expectations: An Active Inference Model of Social Conformity and Decision Making

  • 1Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Australia
  • 2Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, United Kingdom
  • 3Philosophy, McGill University, Canada
  • 4Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, United Kingdom

How do humans come to acquire shared expectations about how they ought to behave in distinct normalised social settings? This paper offers a normative framework to answer this question. We introduce the computational construct of ‘deontic value’ – based on active inference and Markov decision processes – to formalise conceptions of social conformity and human decision-making. Deontic value is an attribute of choices, behaviours, or action sequences that inherit directly from deontic cues in our econiche (e.g., red traffic lights); namely, cues that denote an obligatory social rule. Crucially, the prosocial aspect of deontic value rests upon a particular form of circular causality: deontic cues exist in the environment in virtue of the environment being modified by repeated actions, while action itself is contingent upon the deontic value of environmental cues. We argue that this construction of deontic cues enables the epistemic (i.e., information-seeking) and pragmatic (i.e., goal- seeking) values of any behaviour to be ‘cached’ or ‘outsourced’ to the environment, where the environment effectively ‘learns’ about the behaviour of its denizens. We describe the process whereby this particular aspect of value enables learning of habitual behaviour over neurodevelopmental and transgenerational timescales.

Keywords: Active inference., Markov decision algorithm, Social Conformity, Decision - making, deonticity, niche construction

Received: 12 Sep 2018; Accepted: 11 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Nicholas Furl, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Marco A. Javarone, Coventry University, United Kingdom
Ulf Toelch, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Constant, Ramstead, Veissière and Friston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Axel Constant, University of Sydney, Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney, Australia,