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Neuropsychologia. 2011 Dec;49(14):3891-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Beyond valence and magnitude: a flexible evaluative coding system in the brain.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


Outcome evaluation is a cognitive process that plays an important role in our daily lives. In most paradigms utilized in the field of experimental psychology, outcome valence and outcome magnitude are the two major features investigated. The classical "independent coding model" suggests that outcome valence and outcome magnitude are evaluated by separate neural mechanisms that may be mapped onto discrete event-related potential (ERP) components: feedback-related negativity (FRN) and the P3, respectively. To examine this model, we presented outcome valence and magnitude sequentially rather than simultaneously. The results reveal that when only outcome valence or magnitude is known, both the FRN and the P3 encode that outcome feature; when both aspects of outcome are known, the cognitive functions of the two components dissociate: the FRN responds to the information available in the current context, while the P3 pattern depends on outcome presentation sequence. The current study indicates that the human evaluative system, indexed in part by the FRN and the P3, is more flexible than previous theories suggested.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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