Social instructions: The effect of social variables on instruction following.
Instructions are a cornerstone of cultural evolution and an important communication tool. The cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying the ability to rapidly process and implement instructions are increasingly well understood. However, what has largely been ignored in past research is that instructions are also inherently social: they are always given by someone to someone. Therefore, to fully understand our ability to rapidly implement instructions, it is important not only to map out the cognitive processes underlying instruction following but also to investigate how these processes are modulated by social context. In the current project, I propose and test a three-stage model of how social attributes of the instructor can shape instruction following. This model will allow me to investigate which specific cognitive processes underlying instruction following are influenced by instructor trustworthiness and social status U+2013 two variables that have previously been identified as important social characteristics. More specifically, I will modify three validated behavioral paradigms, the dichotic sentence, the prospective-use, and the stop-signal task, with innovative social manipulations to target each stage individually and to asses both the cognitive and neural markers of social processes in instruction following. By doing so, this project will answer a key unaddressed question in current research and give us important insights into the true social power of instructions.