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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00361

The social situation affects how we process feedback about our actions

  • 1University of Osnabrück, Germany
  • 2University of British Columbia, Canada
  • 3University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Humans achieve their goals in joint action tasks either by cooperation or competition. In the present study, we investigated the neural processes underpinning error and monetary rewards processing in such cooperative and competitive situations. We used electroencephalography (EEG) and analyzed event-related potentials (ERPs) triggered by feedback in both social situations. 26 dyads performed a joint four-alternative forced choice (4AFC) visual task either cooperatively or competitively. At the end of each trial, participants received performance feedback about their individual and joint errors and accompanying monetary rewards. Furthermore, the outcome, i.e. resulting positive, negative or neutral rewards, was dependent on the pay-off matrix, defining the social situation either as cooperative or competitive. We used linear mixed effects models to analyze the feedback-related-negativity (FRN) and used the Threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE) method to explore activations of all electrodes and times. We found main effects of the outcome and social situation, but no interaction at mid-line frontal electrodes. The FRN was more negative for losses than wins in both social situations. However, the FRN amplitudes differed between social situations. Moreover, we compared monetary with neutral outcomes in both
social situations. Our exploratory TFCE analysis revealed that processing of feedback differs between cooperative and competitive situations at right temporo-parietal electrodes where the cooperative situation elicited more positive amplitudes. Further, the differences induced by the social situations were stronger in participants with higher scores on a perspective taking test. In sum, our results replicate previous studies about the FRN and extend them by comparing neurophysiological responses to positive and negative outcomes in a task that simultaneously
engages two participants in competitive and cooperative situations.

Keywords: Social cognition (SC), Joint Action, EEG, ERP, feedback related negativity (FRN), cooperation, competition

Received: 17 Jul 2018; Accepted: 05 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Karl C. Klauer, University of Freiburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Annelie Rothe-Wulf, University of Freiburg, Germany
Benjamin Ernst, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Czeszumski, Ehinger, Wahn and König. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Artur Czeszumski, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany, aczeszumski@uni-osnabrueck.de