Anxiety and outcome evaluation: The good, the bad and the ambiguous

Ruolei Gu, Yue Ge, Yang Jiang, Yue Jia Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Previous research has indicated that anxious individuals are more prone to evaluate ambiguous information as negative compared to non-anxious individuals. The feedback-related negativity (FRN) component of event-related brain potential (ERP) has been shown to be sensitive to outcome evaluation. The current ERP study aimed to test the hypothesis that the FRNs associated with ambiguous outcomes and negative outcomes are different between high-trait anxiety (HTA) and low-trait anxiety (LTA) individuals. The FRN was measured as a difference wave created across conditions. We found significantly different FRN responses between high-anxious and low-anxious participants in ambiguous outcome condition, as well as in negative outcome condition. Moreover, the HTA group's FRN responses under the ambiguous outcome condition were larger than the negative outcome condition. Nevertheless, the FRN following neutral outcome did not show any difference between the two groups. The present results support the idea that there is link between individual differences in anxiety and ambiguous outcome evaluation, which possibly reflects the adaptive function of anxiety. Additionally, the results indicate that the mechanisms underlying the evaluation of neutral outcomes and ambiguous outcomes might be different from each other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-206
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 30930031 ), National Key Technologies R&D Program ( 2009BAI77B01 ), Ministry of Education (PCSIRT, IRT0710), Global Research Initiative Program, United States National Institute of Health ( 1R01TW007897 ), and Scientific Research Foundation of Beijing Normal University ( 2009SAP-8 ). We sincerely thank J.T. Smith for assistance in manuscript editing.


  • Ambiguous outcome
  • Anxiety
  • Decision-making
  • Feedback-related negativity (FRN)
  • Guessing activity
  • Neutral outcome
  • Outcome evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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