Risk sensitivity and theory of mind in human coordination

Pedro L. Ferreira, Francisco C. Santos, S.D. Gonçalves Melo Pequito

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What humans do when exposed to uncertainty, incomplete information, and a dynamic environment influenced by other agents remains an open scientific challenge with important implications in both science and engineering applications. In these contexts, humans handle social situations by employing elaborate cognitive mechanisms such as theory of mind and risk sensitivity. Here we resort to a novel theoretical model, showing that both mechanisms leverage coordinated behaviors among self-regarding individuals. Particularly, we resort to cumulative prospect theory and level-k recursions to show how biases towards optimism and the capacity of planning ahead significantly increase coordinated, cooperative action. These results suggest that the reason why humans are good at coordination may stem from the fact that we are cognitively biased to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009167
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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