Sex differences in the use of social information emerge under conditions of risk
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Social learning provides an effective route to gaining up-to-date information, particularly when information is costly to obtain asocially. Theoretical work predicts that the willingness to switch between using asocial and social sources of information will vary between individuals according to their risk tolerance. We tested the prediction that, where there are sex differences in risk tolerance, altering the variance of the payoffs of using asocial and social information differentially influences the probability of social information use by sex. In a computer-based task that involved building a virtual spaceship, men and women (N = 88) were given the option of using either asocial or social sources of information to improve their performance. When the asocial option was risky (i.e., the participant’s score could markedly increase or decrease) and the social option was safe (i.e., their score could slightly increase or remain the same), women, but not men, were more likely to use the social option than the asocial option. In all other conditions, both women and men preferentially used the asocial option to a similar degree. We therefore found both a sex difference in risk aversion and a sex difference in the preference for social information when relying on asocial information was risky, consistent with the hypothesis that levels of risk-aversion influence the use of social information.
Brand , C O , Brown , G R & Cross , C P 2018 , ' Sex differences in the use of social information emerge under conditions of risk ' , PeerJ , vol. 6 , e4190 . https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4190
Copyright © 2018 Brand et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4190
DescriptionThe research was funded by a John Templeton Foundation grant, awarded to lead principal investigators Kevin Laland (School of Biology, University of St Andrews) and Andrew Whiten (School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews).
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