Show me the Money: The impact of actual rewards and losses on the feedback negativity

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Abstract

The feedback negativity (FN) is an event-related potential component which is typically conceptualized as a negativity in response to losses that is absent in response to gains. However, there is also evidence that variation in the FN reflects the neural response to gains. The present study sought to explore these possibilities by manipulating the context in which loss and gain feedback was presented in a straightforward gambling task. In half the blocks, participants could win or lose money (Value condition), and in half the blocks, participants could not win or lose any money (No Value condition). The degree to which losses and gains were differentiated from one another (i.e., the ΔFN) was greater in the Value condition than in the No Value condition. Furthermore, though the responses to loss feedback and gain feedback were each enhanced in the Value condition relative to the No-Value condition, the effect of the monetary manipulation was substantially larger for the positivity to gains than the negativity to losses. This is consistent with the notion that the FN might reflect two independent processes, but that variation in the FN depends more upon the response to rewards than losses.

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