Beyond valence and magnitude: A flexible evaluative coding system in the brain

Ruolei Gu, Zhihui Lei, Lucas Broster, Tingting Wu, Yang Jiang, Yue jia Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Outcome evaluation is a cognitive process that plays an important role in our daily lives. In most paradigms utilized in the field of experimental psychology, outcome valence and outcome magnitude are the two major features investigated. The classical " independent coding model" suggests that outcome valence and outcome magnitude are evaluated by separate neural mechanisms that may be mapped onto discrete event-related potential (ERP) components: feedback-related negativity (FRN) and the P3, respectively. To examine this model, we presented outcome valence and magnitude sequentially rather than simultaneously. The results reveal that when only outcome valence or magnitude is known, both the FRN and the P3 encode that outcome feature; when both aspects of outcome are known, the cognitive functions of the two components dissociate: the FRN responds to the information available in the current context, while the P3 pattern depends on outcome presentation sequence. The current study indicates that the human evaluative system, indexed in part by the FRN and the P3, is more flexible than previous theories suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3891-3897
Number of pages7
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 30930031 ), Ministry of Sci & Tech (973 Program, 2011CB711000 ), National Key Technologies R & D Program ( 2009BAI77B01 ), Global Research Initiative Program , United States National Institute of Health grants ( 1R01TW007897 , P50DA05312 ), and Funds for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation of Beijing Normal University . The authors thank Suyong Yang for help with data acquisition, Chunliang Feng for help with manuscript preparation, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


  • Decision-making
  • Event-related potential (ERP)
  • Feedback-related negativity (FRN)
  • Outcome evaluation
  • Outcome magnitude
  • Outcome valence
  • P3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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