Electrocortical responses in reward paradigms and their variation related to personality
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This thesis was conducted in order to investigate two issues: (1) how sensitive event related potentials (ERPs), and more specifically the medial frontal negativity and the P3 components, are to the valence and magnitude of reward-related stimuli, and (2) whether individual differences have an effect on the sensitivity of these ERP components to these characteristics. This was investigated using two reward-related paradigms. In the "pure gambling task" participants were asked to choose between two cards, each containing varying dollar amounts (large or small). The outcome of the choice (i.e., win or loss) was revealed after the choice was made. Additionally, participants were shown whether the non-chosen card would have been a win or a loss. In the "simple response task", participants were presented with five cues (large win, large loss, small win, small loss or zero) that labelled the trial as either a potential win, a potential loss or no change. Following the cue, a target appeared on the screen and the participant's task was to press the response key while the target was still visible. A success led to a win (gain in money) or no loss (no change) depending on the cue. Thirty participants completed both tasks; afterwards they filled out a set of questionnaires measuring personality and other individual differences relating to risk-taking behaviour. The results of both tasks showed that ERP components can differentiate between the valence and magnitude of reward-related stimuli, although no single component was uniquely related to either of the characteristics as previous suggested in the literature. Additionally, the context of the stimulus presentation (e.g., the task structure, condition within the task) affected the relationships between the ERP components and stimulus characteristics.