Motivational processes from expectancy–value theory are associated with variability in the error positivity in young children

Matthew H. Kim, Loren M. Marulis, Jennie K. Grammer, Frederick J. Morrison, William J. Gehring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Motivational beliefs and values influence how children approach challenging activities. The current study explored motivational processes from an expectancy–value theory framework by studying children's mistakes and their responses to them by focusing on two event-related potential (ERP) components: the error-related negativity (ERN) and the error positivity (Pe). Motivation was assessed using a child-friendly challenge puzzle task and a brief interview measure prior to ERP testing. Data from 50 4- to 6-year-old children revealed that greater perceived competence beliefs were related to a larger Pe, whereas stronger intrinsic task value beliefs were associated with a smaller Pe. Motivation was unrelated to the ERN. Individual differences in early motivational processes may reflect electrophysiological activity related to conscious error awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-47
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE 1256260) to the first author, a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R21HD059085) to the fourth and fifth authors, and a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS 1356118) to the third, fourth, and fifth authors. We thank Jennifer McDermott and her colleagues for the design of the Go/No-Go task that was adapted for use in this study. We are also grateful for research assistance provided by Michelle Blain, Alexander Daguanno, Kasia Garner, Kristall Knieper, Shella Marder, Kaille Meguiar, Chandler Missig, Mahya Rahimian, Victoria Rilett, Anna Shu, and Palak Vani. Finally, we would like to thank all of the families and children who participated in our study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Children
  • Error positivity
  • Error-related negativity
  • Expectancy
  • Motivation
  • Value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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