Social overshadowing: revisiting cue-competition in social interactions

  • Gonzalo Urcelay (Creator)
  • University Of Nottingham (Contributor)
  • University Of Nottingham (Contributor)
  • Maika Telga (Contributor)
  • José Andres Alcalá (Contributor)
  • Cecilia Heyes (Contributor)



    Understanding how we use the information surrounding us to extract patterns and guide our behavior has been of major interest in psychological research, in both social and nonsocial contexts. On the one hand, associative learning psychology has largely documented how human and nonhuman animals learn through trials to respond to rewarding stimuli, and avoid those that are not. On the other hand, researchers in social psychology have extensively investigated how our perception of and interactions with others dynamically evolve as a result of acquiring information about them. The present research adopts a domain-general approach of learning and explores whether the principles underlying associative learning also govern learning in social contexts. In particular, we examined whether overshadowing, a well-established cue-competition phenomenon, impacts learning of the cooperative behaviors of unfamiliar interaction partners. Across three experiments using an adaptation of the iterated Trust Game, we consistently observed a ‘social overshadowing’ effect, that is, a better learning about the cooperative tendencies of partners presented alone compared to those presented in a pair. This robust effect was not modulated by gender stereotypes or beliefs about the internal communication dynamics within a pair of partners. The implications of these results for both associative learning and social psychology are discussed.
    Date made available2022
    PublisherUniversity of Nottingham

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