Social decision-making and theoretical neuroscience: Prospects for human sciences and computational psychiatry

Hiroyuki Nakahara, Shinsuke Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning to predict others' minds is critical for social cognition, but the underlying computation and neural mechanisms remains largely unknown. According to theories in social cognition, a simple conception is that humans simulate others' mental processes by directly recruiting one's own process to model others' minds. In this review, we first describe our recent finding and discuss its possible implications. Using human fMRI with model-based analysis on frameworks of reinforcement learning and value-based decision making, we found that simulation involves two hierarchical learning signals: a reward prediction error, generated by simulation of direct recruitment to model others' valuation, and an action prediction error, based on simulation and observation of the other's choices to track others' variability. These findings show that humans can learn to predict others' minds from simulation, using a scaffold of mentalizing signals. Then, we discuss prospects that theoretical neuroscience and computational approaches will play significant roles in understanding human behavior and neural mechanisms, leading to the so-called computational psychiatry as well as synthesis over different disciplines to study human.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-982
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Nerve
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision making
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Reward prediction
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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