Absorbed in the task: Personality measures predict engagement during task performance as tracked by error negativity and asymmetrical frontal activity
We hypothesized that interactions between traits and context predict task engagement, as measured by the amplitude of the error-related negativity (ERN), performance, and relative frontal activity asymmetry (RFA). In Study 1, we found that drive for reward, absorption, and constraint independently predicted self-reported persistence. We hypothesized that, during a prolonged monotonous task, absorption would predict initial ERN amplitudes, constraint would delay declines in ERN amplitudes and deterioration of performance, and drive for reward would predict left RFA when a reward could be obtained. Study 2, employing EEG recordings, confirmed our predictions. The results showed that most traits that have in previous research been related to ERN amplitudes have a relationship with the motivational trait persistence in common. In addition, trait-context combinations that are likely associated with increased engagement predict larger ERN amplitudes and RFA. Together, these results support the hypothesis that engagement may be a common underlying factor predicting ERN amplitude.