ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

心理科学进展 ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (1): 85-99.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00085

• 研究前沿 • 上一篇    下一篇


李亚琴, 赵若兰, 杨庆()   

  1. 曲阜师范大学心理学院, 山东 曲阜 273165
  • 收稿日期:2023-02-24 出版日期:2024-01-15 发布日期:2023-10-25
  • 通讯作者: 杨庆
  • 基金资助:

Effects of motivation on error processing: Controversy and integration

LI Yaqin, ZHAO Ruolan, YANG Qing()   

  1. School of Psychology, Qufu Normal University, Qufu 273165, China
  • Received:2023-02-24 Online:2024-01-15 Published:2023-10-25
  • Contact: YANG Qing


错误加工(error processing)是个体探测错误发生并进行针对性调整的高级认知过程。大量研究表明, 动机(如奖励、惩罚等)能够影响错误加工过程, 但结果并不一致。本文在梳理和比较以往研究的基础上提出, 年龄、性别、实验设计、人格和文化等因素可能影响动机与错误加工的关系。通过进一步整合, 提出任务相关性(task relevance)可能是潜在的共同作用机制, 即在与个体目标高相关的任务中, 动机越强则错误加工程度增强(如更大的ERN、Pe波幅); 而在低相关任务中, 动机对错误加工的影响较弱。在这一理论框架下, 上述因素可能通过影响任务相关性进而调节动机与错误加工的关系, 新观点的提出有助于解释动机与错误加工关系的矛盾结果。未来一是需要系统验证上述因素及任务相关性的作用, 二是关注不同类型错误和错误本身的动机作用, 三是进一步探究动机与认知因素如何共同影响错误加工, 这些将有助于完善和推进动机取向的错误加工理论。

关键词: 错误加工, 动机, 错误相关负波, 错误正波, 任务相关性


Errors are annoying and threatening. How to effectively monitor errors and adjust behaviors is important for one’s goal achievement and social adaptation. Error processing is a high-level cognitive process that detects the occurrence of errors and makes subsequent adjustments. It can be characterized by brain activations (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex, ACC; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dlPFC), behavioral indicators (e.g., post-error accuracy, post-error slowing), and electroencephalogram (EEG) components (e.g., error-related negativity, ERN; error positive, Pe). Numerous studies have shown that motivation (e.g., reward, punishment, etc.) can affect error processing, but the findings are inconsistent.

By comparing previous studies, we propose that factors such as age, gender, experimental design (e.g., task paradigms, motivation manipulations, trial-by-trial feedback, etc.), personality (e.g., neuroticism, conscientiousness, reward and punishment sensitivity, etc.) and culture (e.g., collectivist vs. individualist) may affect the relationship between motivation and error processing. Integrating them together, we further propose that task relevance could serve as a potential joint mechanism for these effects, that is, in tasks that are highly relevant to individual goals (i.e., motivation is highly tied to error consequences), error processing would be enhanced (e.g., heightened ERN/Pe amplitude) when one’s motivation is stronger; but in low relevant tasks (i.e., motivation is less tied to error consequences), the motivational effects on error processing would be weaker (e.g., motivation may fail to enhance, or even decrease ERN/Pe amplitude).

Within this theoretical framework, the above factors may moderate the relationship between motivation and error processing by affecting task relevance. For example, cultural factors may moderate the relationship between motivation and error processing through the mechanism of task relevance. For instance, Europeans and Americans may pay greater attention to self-relevant contexts and ignore other-relevant contexts compared to Asians, resulting in differences in attentional engagement in subsequent error processing tasks and differences in ERN amplitude. In social-evaluative threat situations, collectivist may be more sensitive to social threats and prone to associate errors with personal status and "face". This could strengthen the correlation between social evaluation motivation and error consequences, thereby enhancing error monitoring. In addition, gender and culture may interact to influence task relevance, thereby influencing the relationship between motivation and error processing. For instance, in social-evaluative threat situations, women (who are prone to form interdependent self-construal) may exhibit higher sensitivity to social errors (i.e., heightened task relevance) than men (who are prone to form independent self-construal), resulting in stronger error monitoring when motivation level increases. This new viewpoint may contribute to explaining the complex relationship between motivation and error processing.

Future research should first empirically examine the moderating effects of the above factors and task relevance. Second, future research may explore the impact of motivation on different types of errors (e.g., unaware errors vs. aware errors). This is meaningful because some studies have shown that error types can affect error monitoring and post-error adjustment strategies, and the motivational effects can differ in reaction time of aware and unaware errors. Therefore, the motivational effects on error processing may also be affected by different types of errors. Third, it is also interesting to separate endogenous and exogenous motivations to explore their distinct influences on error processing. For example, one can explore the motivational function of error itself, that is, like surprise, error itself may have motivational function on subsequent error processing, which can be different to that induced by the exogenous motivation (e.g., reward, punishment). Last, future research can explore how motivational and cognitive factors may interact to affect error processing, and whether cognitive ability differences (e.g., attentional capacity, working memory capacity) can explain the inconsistent effects of motivation on error processing. We believe these measures would help advance the motivational theory of error processing.

Key words: error processing, motivation, error-related negativity, error positive, task relevance