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The feedback negativity is a component of the event-related brain potential that is elicited by feedback stimuli associated with unfavorable outcomes. The present research investigated whether this component reflects an evaluation of the valence of experienced outcomes or a process of learning about actions that led to those outcomes. The latter hypothesis predicts that the feedback negativity should be observed only when negative outcomes are experienced in relation to executed actions. Contrary to this prediction, feedback negativities were observed in simple monetary gambling tasks in which participants made no active choices (experiment 1) and no overt actions (experiment 2). However, the amplitude of the component was reduced in these tasks relative to a gambling task in which the outcomes appeared to be contingent upon participants' response choices. This reduction was correlated with changes in participants' subjective ratings of involvement in the tasks, suggesting that the evaluative process indexed by the feedback negativity is sensitive to the motivational significance of ongoing events.

Original publication




Journal article


Cereb Cortex

Publication Date





535 - 544


Adolescent, Adult, Brain, Choice Behavior, Decision Making, Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted, Electroencephalography, Event-Related Potentials, P300, Feedback, Female, Gambling, Humans, Male, Psychomotor Performance, Reinforcement (Psychology), Reward, Risk-Taking, Statistics as Topic