Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Dissonance (Revised): An EEG Study

The Journal of Neuroscience, May 17, 2017 • 37(20):5074 –5083

10 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018

See all articles by Marco Calosio

Marco Calosio

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making

Anna Shestakova

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making

Vadim Nikulin

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Evgeny Blagovechtchenski

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making; Saint Petersburg State University - Laboratory of Neuroscience and Molecular Pharmacology

Vasily Klucharev

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: January 1, 2017

Abstract

Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that our preferences are modulated by the mere act of choosing. A choice between two similarly valued alternatives creates psychological tension (cognitive dissonance) that is reduced by a post decisional reevaluation of the alternatives. We measured EEG of human subjects during rest and free-choice paradigm. Our study demonstrates that choices associated with stronger cognitive dissonance trigger a larger negative frontocentral evoked response similar to error-related negativity, which has in turn been implicated in general performance monitoring. Furthermore, the amplitude of the evoked response is correlated with the reevaluation of the alternatives. We also found a link between individual neural dynamics (long-range temporal correlations) of the frontocentral cortices during rest and follow-up neural and behavioral effects of cognitive dissonance. Individuals with stronger resting-state long-range temporal correlations demonstrated a greater post decisional reevaluation of the alternatives and larger evoked brain responses associated with stronger cognitive dissonance. Thus, our results suggest that cognitive dissonance is reflected in both resting-state and choice-related activity of the prefrontal cortex as part of the general performance-monitoring circuitry. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Contrary to traditional decision theory, behavioral studies repeatedly demonstrate that our preferences are modulated by the mere act of choosing. Difficult choices generate psychological (cognitive) dissonance, which is reduced by the post decisional devaluation of unchosen options. We found that decisions associated with a higher level of cognitive dissonance elicited a stronger negative frontocentral deflection that peaked ∼60 ms after the response. This activity shares similar spatial and temporal features as error-related negativity, the electrophysiological correlate of performance monitoring. Furthermore, the frontocentral resting-state activity predicted the individual magnitude of preference change and the strength of cognitive dissonance-related neural activity

Keywords: cognitive dissonance; error-related negativity; long-range temporal correlation; resting state; spread of alternatives

Suggested Citation

Calosio, Marco and Shestakova, Anna and Nikulin, Vadim and Blagovechtchenski, Evgeny and Klucharev, Vasily, Neural Mechanisms of Cognitive Dissonance (Revised): An EEG Study (January 1, 2017). The Journal of Neuroscience, May 17, 2017 • 37(20):5074 –5083, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3205358

Marco Calosio

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making ( email )

Moscow
Russia

Anna Shestakova

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making ( email )

Moscow
Russia

Vadim Nikulin

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

Evgeny Blagovechtchenski

National Research University Higher School of Economics - Centre for Cognition and Decision Making ( email )

Moscow
Russia

Saint Petersburg State University - Laboratory of Neuroscience and Molecular Pharmacology ( email )

Russia

Vasily Klucharev (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

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