P3. Neuroscience (LNC, ENS, Paris)

Normative conflict, norm dominance, and cultural variation in epistemic norms

Human beings are social animals that have to interact with their conspecifics and, most often, with members of specific groups (e.g., cultural, national, or ethnic). In this regard, members of one’s reference group can constitute epistemic authorities for each other and contribute – under some conditions – to the emergence (or not) of an epistemic consensus. In turn, group consensus is likely to elicit social pressure and interpersonal influence, i.e. conformity. In this view, the aim of the present project is to examine how humans are sensitive to consensus – as an epistemic norm – and its dominance relative to other norms – i.e. its higher salience in a given context. To this end, we will study how participants deal with objective epistemic norm conflicts, i.e. when several salient norms compete for control of an epistemic decision. Thus, the first step of this project will be to build a norm dominance paradigm allowing us to test normative conflict and, more precisely, the dominance of consensus relative to fluency – i.e. the metacognitive experience of ease or difficulty associated with processing information. The second step will consist in conducting brain-based investigations of epistemic norm sensitivity. Based, as far as possible, on a similar paradigm, fMRI studies will be conducted on adults in order to highlight neural correlates of normative conflict regulation, with  particular attention paid to the prefrontal cortex, assumed to play a critical role in cognitive control. Finally, in collaboration with Atsushi Senju (Neuroscience, Birkbeck College), the third step will be to use the norm dominance paradigm in culturally diverse groups of participants (Japanese and Westerners). This will permit us to specify whether members of different cultures have different epistemic norms, or whether cultural variations in epistemic norms may depend on norm dominance.