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Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 27;8(1):3712. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21820-0.

Differential effects of real versus hypothetical monetary reward magnitude on risk-taking behavior and brain activity.

Xu S1,2, Pan Y1, Qu Z3, Fang Z1,2, Yang Z4,2, Yang F3,2, Wang F1, Rao H5,6.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, School of Business and Management, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China.
2
Center for Functional Neuroimaging, Department of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
4
Department of Psychology, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
5
Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, School of Business and Management, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China. hengyi@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.
6
Center for Functional Neuroimaging, Department of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA. hengyi@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.

Abstract

Human decisions are more easily affected by a larger amount of money than a smaller one. Although numerous studies have used hypothetical money as incentives to motivate human behavior, the validity of hypothetical versus real monetary rewards remains controversial. In the present study, we used event-related potential (ERP) with the balloon analogue risk task to investigate how magnitudes of real and hypothetical monetary rewards modulate risk-taking behavior and feedback-related negativity (FRN). Behavioral data showed that participants were more risk averse after negative feedback with increased magnitude of real monetary rewards, while no behavior differences were observed between large and small hypothetical monetary rewards. Similarly, ERP data showed a larger FRN in response to negative feedback during risk taking with large compared to small real monetary rewards, while no FRN differences were observed between large and small hypothetical monetary rewards. Moreover, FRN amplitude differences correlated with risk-taking behavior changes from small to large real monetary rewards, while such correlation was not observed for hypothetical monetary rewards. These findings suggest that the magnitudes of real and hypothetical monetary rewards have differential effects on risk-taking behavior and brain activity. Real and hypothetical money incentives may have different validity for modulating human decisions.

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