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Patterns of electrical brain activation in response to socially-disputed perceptual judgments

Zanesco, Juliea; Tipura, Edab,,c; Clément, Fabricea; Pegna, Alan J.d

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001343
Clinical Neuroscience

In recent years, neuroscience has begun to investigate brain responses to social stimuli. To date, however, the effects of social feedback on attentional and perceptual processes remain unclear. In this study, participants were asked to judge the hues of distinct, or ambiguously coloured stimuli, and to indicate their confidence ratings. Alleged social feedback was then provided, either endorsing or disputing the participants’ responses. Participants were then presented the stimulus a second time and given the option to reconsider their decision. Behavioural findings showed that confidence levels decreased both with task difficulty and with conflicting social feedback. Event-related potential data showed greater P2 and N2 amplitudes for ambiguous squares compared to distinct squares upon initial stimulus presentations, compatible with heightened attention. Moreover, a decreased P300 was found for ambiguous stimuli, consistent with an increase in metacognitive activity. After social feedback, an early-late positive potential between 270 and 370 ms continued to distinguish ambiguous from distinct stimuli. More importantly, after 400 ms, the late positive potential distinguished endorsed from disputed stimuli. These results reveal that social feedback, while decreasing effects linked to uncertainty, gives rise to later processes associated with enhanced motivational significance of the stimulus following divergence from social approval.

aCentre for Cognitive Sciences, University of Neuchatel, Neuchatel

bFaculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

cDepartment of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

dSchool of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Received 14 August 2019 Accepted 21 August 2019

Correspondence to Alan J. Pegna, PhD, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland Qld 4072, Australia, Tel: +61733656412; fax: +61733656412; e-mail:

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