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24-01-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2020

Psychological Research 1/2020

Intertwining personal and reward relevance: evidence from the drift-diffusion model

Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2020
A. Yankouskaya, R. Bührle, E. Lugt, M. Stolte, J. Sui
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-018-0979-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


In their seminal paper ‘Is our self nothing but reward’, Northoff and Hayes (Biol Psychiatry 69(11):1019–1025, Northoff, Hayes, Biological Psychiatry 69(11):1019–1025, 2011) proposed three models of the relationship between self and reward and opened a continuing debate about how these different fields can be linked. To date, none of the proposed models received strong empirical support. The present study tested common and distinct effects of personal relevance and reward values by de-componenting different stages of perceptual decision making using a drift-diffusion approach. We employed a recently developed associative matching paradigm where participants (N = 40) formed mental associations between five geometric shapes and five labels referring personal relevance in the personal task, or five shape-label pairings with different reward values in the reward task and then performed a matching task by indicating whether a displayed shape-label pairing was correct or incorrect. We found that common effects of personal relevance and monetary reward were manifested in the facilitation of behavioural performance for high personal relevance and high reward value as socially important signals. The differential effects between personal and monetary relevance reflected non-decisional time in a perceptual decision process, and task-specific prioritization of stimuli. Our findings support the parallel processing model (Northoff & Hayes, Biol Psychiatry 69(11):1019–1025, Northoff, Hayes, Biological Psychiatry 69(11):1019–1025, 2011) and suggest that self-specific processing occurs in parallel with high reward processing. Limitations and further directions are discussed.

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