Neuroscience 2019 Jul 29;416:137-146. Epub 2019 Jul 29.
Department of Psychology, The University of Alabama, Box 870348, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0348, United States. Electronic address:
Some models of motivation distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While past work has examined the neural and cognitive correlates of extrinsic motivation, research on intrinsic motivation has relied primarily on behavioral measures of performance and learning. In particular, no past work has examined the neural and cognitive correlates of social performance expectancy, which is linked to intrinsic motivation. The current study manipulated expectancy of difficult (vs. easy) trials on a cued flanker task and assessed attentional scope and performance. EEG was used to examine motor-action preparation as measured by suppression of beta band activity over the motor cortex and feedback processing as measured by the Reward Positivity (RewP). Results revealed expectancy of difficult (vs. easy) trials narrowed attentional scope, reduced beta activity over the motor cortex, and enhanced RewP amplitudes to win feedback. These findings suggest that enhancing intrinsic motivation through expectancies of positive social comparison engages similar neural and cognitive correlates as extrinsic motivators high in motivational intensity.