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Zhou, Yuqing; Lindström, Björn; Soutschek, Alexander ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8438-7721; Kang, Pyungwon; Tobler, Philippe N. and Hein, Grit (4. November 2021): Learning from ingroup experiences changes intergroup impressions. bioRxiv

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Living in multicultural societies, humans form impressions towards individuals of their own social groups (ingroup members) and of different social groups (outgroup members). Some psychological theories predict that intergroup impressions are mainly shaped by experiences with outgroup individuals (“outgroup focused theories”), while other theories predict that ingroup experiences play a dominant role (“ingroup focused theories”). Here we test predictions from these two psychological theories by estimating how intergroup impressions are dynamically shaped when people learn from both ingroup and outgroup experiences. Participants expected to receive painful shocks but were saved from pain by different ingroup or outgroup members in 75% of all trials. We measured neural responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and participants rated their social closeness as well as impressions towards the ingroup and the outgroup. Behavioral results showed an initial ingroup bias in impression ratings which was significantly reduced over the course of learning. Computational learning models revealed that these changes in intergroup impressions were predicted by the weight given to ingroup prediction errors. The weight of the ingroup prediction error and its effect on intergroup impression change was stronger the more individuals identified with their ingroup. On the neural level, the left inferior parietal lobule (IPL) encoded more negative prediction errors for the ingroup compared to the outgroup. Moreover, stronger weight for ingroup prediction errors was related to increased neural coupling between the left IPL and the anterior insula (AI). This coupling further predicted learning-related changes in intergroup impressions. Together, our work provides computational and neural evidence for “ingroup focused theories”, highlighting the importance of ingroup experiences in shaping social impressions in intergroup settings.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

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