High approach-motivated negative affect enhances the reward positivity
Past work has demonstrated that the reward positivity (RewP) reflects a binary evaluation of good versus bad outcomes. Recent studies have suggested that the RewP may be sensitive to approach-motivated states prior to goal pursuit. However, previous research has not investigated whether the modulation of the RewP is due to affective valence or motivational state. In order to disentangle the impact of affective valence and motivation on the RewP, I investigated whether anger, a negative affect state high in approach-motivation, transmogrified the RewP. First, participants received insulting feedback on an essay written by the participant from an ostensible opponent. Then, participants completed a revised monetary incentive delay task. In the task, cues evoked an approach-motivated pregoal (reward trials), neutral, or withdrawal-motivated pregoal (punishment trials) states. Next, participants competed in a reaction time game against the opponent. Postgoal cues indicated the outcome of the game (win vs. loss). Following the postgual cues, participants had the opportunity to aggress against the other opponent by delivering a noise blast (reward trials), perform no action (neutral trials), or receive a noise blast from the other participant (punishment trials). Results revealed that win feedback in reward trials elicited a larger RewP than win feedback in neutral trials. Additionally, the RewP was larger following win feedback in reward trials than loss feedback in reward trials. Interestingly, feedback in punishment trials elicited a larger RewP than feedback in neutral trials, but failed to differentiate between win and loss feedback in punishment trials. Finally, the predicted relationship between greater aggression towards the offending individual and larger RewP amplitudes after reward trial wins did not occur. These results indicate that negative affects high in approach motivational intensity enhance the RewP. This likely occurs because approach motivation enhances feedback processing, regardless of whether the motivation was a result of positive or negative states.