A virtual ball-tossing game called Cyberball has allowed the identification of neural structures involved in the processing of social exclusion by using neurocognitive methods. However, there is still an ongoing debate if structures involved are either pain- or exclusion-specific or part of a broader network. In electrophysiological Cyberball studies we have shown that the P3b component is sensitive to exclusion manipulations, possibly modulated by the probability of ball possession of the participant (event “self”) or the presumed co-players (event “other”). Since it is known from oddball studies that the P3b is not only modulated by the objective probability of an event, but also by subjective expectancy, we independently manipulated the probability of the events “self” and “other” and the expectancy for these events. Questionnaire data indicate that social need threat is only induced when the expectancy for involvement in the ball-tossing game is violated. Similarly, the P3b amplitude of both “self” and “other” events was a correlate of expectancy violation. We conclude that both the subjective report of exclusion and the P3b effect induced in the Cyberball paradigm are primarily based on a cognitive process sensitive to expectancy violations, and that the P3b is not related to the activation of an exclusion-specific neural alarm system.
Brain Research – Elsevier
Published: Oct 22, 2015
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