Interdependent selves show face-induced facilitation of error processing: cultural neuroscience of self-threat


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Abstract

The fundamentally social nature of humans is revealed in their exquisitely high sensitivity to potentially negative evaluations held by others. At present, however, little is known about neurocortical correlates of the response to such social-evaluative threat. Here, we addressed this issue by showing that mere exposure to an image of a watching face is sufficient to automatically evoke a social-evaluative threat for those who are relatively high in interdependent self-construal. Both European American and Asian participants performed a flanker task while primed with a face (vs control) image. The relative increase of the error-related negativity (ERN) in the face (vs control) priming condition became more pronounced as a function of interdependent (vs independent) self-construal. Relative to European Americans, Asians were more interdependent and, as predicted, they showed a reliably stronger ERN in the face (vs control) priming condition. Our findings suggest that the ERN can serve as a robust empirical marker of self-threat that is closely modulated by socio-cultural variables.

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