In a recent experiment [Boksem, M.A.S., Tops, M., Wester, A.E., Meijman, T.F., Lorist, M.M., 2006. Error-related ERP components and individual differences in punishment and reward sensitivity. Brain Research 1101, 92–101], we showed that error-related ERP components were related to punishment and reward sensitivity. The present study was conducted to further evaluate the relationship between punishment/reward sensitivity and these ERP components. Therefore, we scored our subjects on the BIS/BAS measures of punishment and reward sensitivity. Then, subjects performed one of two versions of a Flanker task: in one, they were financially punished for committing errors; in the other, they were financially rewarded for correct performance. Analyses of ERN/Ne amplitudes indicated significant interactions between personality measures of punishment (BIS) and reward (BAS) and actual punishment and reward, while analyses of Pe amplitudes showed significant interactions between personality measures of reward sensitivity and actual reward. We suggest that ERN/Ne amplitude is related to concerns over mistakes and depends on the level of aversion experienced by individual subjects for making these mistakes. Subjects that are highly sensitive to punishment are strongly motivated or engaged in avoiding punishment, while subjects sensitive to rewards are motivated to obtain rewards and therefore show high task engagement when rewards may be earned. The error-related ERP components appear to track this level of engagement in task performance.

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ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Biological Psychology
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Boksem, M., Tops, M., & Kostermans, E. (2008). Sensitivity to punishment and reward omission: Evidence from error-related ERP components. Biological Psychology, 79(2), 185–192. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2008.04.010