To gain a deeper understanding of social intelligence we have to understand social behavior on at least three different levels:
We investigate how phenomena like imitation or acting in synchrony contribute to adaptive social behavior. We investigate these phenomena both in dyadic and in group settings. Furthermore, we try to understand how sensorimotor processes contribute to social conformity. This research is primarily carried out in virtual reality (VR), because VR allows us to create a realistic social environment that is under experimental control.
We try to understand how human primates can acquire new behavior via symbolic instructions. Instruction following is one of the key aspects of social learning in humans and allows us to acquire behavior without effortful trial and error learning. Our research tries to understand how a declarative representation of an instruction can be transformed into a motor program. Furthermore, we investigate how our ability to implement symbolic instructions is influenced by social variables.
We investigate how high-level beliefs such as religious or philosophical beliefs that are an integral part of our society influence human behavior. Here our basic assumption is that high-level beliefs do not only influence high-level social behavior but also have an influence on more basic sensorimotor processes. While we used text-based manipulations in our previous work, more recently we try to manipulate free-will-related beliefs in game-like environments.