Subjective preferences differentially modulate the processing of rewards gained by own vs. observed choices

Jutta Peterburs, Lena Sannemann, Christian Bellebaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present EEG study investigated the impact of subjective reward preferences and agency on outcome processing. 47 healthy adults (11 male; 36 female) with preferences for either milk or white chocolate completed two runs of a gambling task involving their preferred chocolate (high preference outcomes, HPOs), non-preferred chocolate (medium preference outcomes, MPOs), and a lesser liked non-chocolate reward (low preference outcomes, LPOs). In the ‘active’ run, subjects chose between three different response options to receive the outcomes. In the ‘observational’ run, they observed another person's choices and subsequent outcomes. Cluster-based permutation analyses of event-related potential (ERPs) revealed that early processing in the P2 time window reflected outcome salience, differentiating HPOs and MPOs from LPOs, especially for outcomes following own choices, while not distinguishing between HPOs and MPOs. In contrast, processing in later stages, i.e., the typical time windows for feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P300, showed evidence of differential coding of HPOs and MPOs and was also modulated by agency. ERPs clearly differentiated between all three outcome types in the FRN and P300 time windows for outcomes following active but not for observed choices. The present study adds to evidence for modulation of outcome processing by contextual and inter-individual factors. In particular, our findings suggest that subjective preferences are complementarily represented in subjective reward valuation and in motivational value representations indexed by the FRN and the P300.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107139
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Feedback processing
  • Feedback-related negativity (FRN)
  • P300
  • Performance monitoring
  • Reward value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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