Reward, salience, and agency in event-related potentials for appetitive and aversive contexts

Harry J. Stewardson, Thomas D. Sambrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Cognitive architectures tasked with swiftly and adaptively processing biologically important events are likely to classify these on two central axes: motivational salience, that is, those events’ importance and unexpectedness, and motivational value, the utility they hold, relative to that expected. Because of its temporal precision, electroencephalography provides an opportunity to resolve processes associated with these two axes. A focus of attention for the last two decades has been the feedback-related negativity (FRN), a frontocentral component occurring 240–340 ms after valenced events that are not fully predicted. Both motivational salience and value are present in such events and competing claims have been made for which of these is encoded by the FRN. The present study suggests that motivational value, in the form of a reward prediction error, is the primary determinant of the FRN in active contexts, while in both passive and active contexts, a weaker and earlier overlapping motivational salience component may be present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5006–5014
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number11
Early online date21 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • ERP
  • FRN
  • RewP
  • motivational salience
  • reward prediction error

Cite this