We are a laboratory in the University of Montana Department of Psychology investigating how the brain forms expectations about others. Social expectations include everything from moment-to-moment predictions about others' actions to more general notions about personality and threat. They include the initial perception that something might have intentional behavior, inferences about someone's emotional state, and whether or not other individuals should be trusted. Our research focuses on the degu, a small rodent from Chile with a rich repertoire of vocal and physical interactions. By applying techniques to monitor, manipulate, and simulate the nervous system, we can develop and test theories of how social expectations arise from neural interactions. Our goal is to gain better insight into how the brain supports social behavior in a way that is not only adaptive for the individual, but, ideally, constructive for groups of individuals. This could offer directions to help those with social handicaps, and may point to strategies for improving lives in an increasingly crowded world.

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Students interested in joining the lab should contact Nathan Insel for more information.