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Journal Article

Neural mechanisms of cognitive dissonance (revised): An EEG study


Nikulin,  Vadim V.
Centre for Cognition and Decision Making, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Colosio, M., Shestakova, A., Nikulin, V. V., Blagovechtchenski, E., & Klucharev, V. (2017). Neural mechanisms of cognitive dissonance (revised): An EEG study. The Journal of Neuroscience, 37(20), 5074-5083. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3209-16.2017.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-293E-8
Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that our preferences are modulated by the mere act of choosing. A choice between two similarly valued alternatives creates psychological tension (cognitive dissonance) that is reduced by a post-decisional reevaluation of the alternatives. We measured EEG of human subjects during rest and free-choice paradigm. Our study demonstrates that choices associated with stronger cognitive dissonance trigger a larger negative fronto-central evoked response similar to error-related negativity (ERN), which has in turn been implicated in general performance monitoring. Furthermore, the amplitude of the evoked response is correlated with the reevaluation of the alternatives. We also found a link between individual neural dynamics (long-range temporal correlations— LRTC) of the fronto-central cortices during rest and follow-up neural and behavioral effects of cognitive dissonance. Individuals with stronger resting-state LRTC demonstrated a greater post-decisional reevaluation of the alternatives and larger evoked brain responses associated with stronger cognitive dissonance. Thus, our results suggest that cognitive dissonance is reflected in both resting-state and choice-related activity of the prefrontal cortex as part of the general performance-monitoring circuitry.