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J Cogn Neurosci. 2010 Nov;22(11):2609-17. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21395.

Coordinated roles of motivation and perception in the regulation of intergroup responses: frontal cortical asymmetry effects on the P2 event-related potential and behavior.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Self-regulation is believed to involve changes in motivation and perception that function to promote goal-driven behavior. However, little is known about the way these processes interact during the on-line engagement of self-regulation. The present study examined the coordination of motivation, perception, and action control in White American participants as they regulated responses on a racial stereotyping task. Electroencephalographic indices of approach motivation (left frontal cortical asymmetry) and perceptual attention to Black versus White faces (the P2 event-related potential) were assessed during task performance. Action control was modeled from task behavior using the process-dissociation procedure. A pattern of moderated mediation emerged, such that stronger left frontal activity predicted larger P2 responses to race, which in turn predicted better action control, especially for participants holding positive racial attitudes. Results supported the hypothesis that motivation tunes perception to facilitate goal-directed action. Implications for theoretical models of intergroup response regulation, the P2 component, and the relation between motivation and perception are discussed.

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