Error-related brain potentials are differentially related to awareness of response errors: evidence from an antisaccade task

Psychophysiology. 2001 Sep;38(5):752-60.


The error negativity (Ne/ERN) and error positivity (Pe) are two components of the event-related brain potential (ERP) that are associated with action monitoring and error detection. To investigate the relation between error processing and conscious self-monitoring of behavior, the present experiment examined whether an Ne and Pe are observed after response errors of which participants are unaware. Ne and Pe measures, behavioral accuracy, and trial-to-trial subjective accuracy judgments were obtained from participants performing an antisaccade task, which elicits many unperceived, incorrect reflex-like saccades. Consistent with previous research, subjectively unperceived saccade errors were almost always immediately corrected, and were associated with faster correction times and smaller saccade sizes than perceived errors. Importantly, irrespective of whether the participant was aware of the error or not, erroneous saccades were followed by a sizable Ne. In contrast, the Pe was much more pronounced for perceived than for unperceived errors. Unperceived errors were characterized by the absence of posterror slowing. These and other results are consistent with the view that the Ne and Pe reflect the activity of two separate error monitoring processes, of which only the later process, reflected by the Pe, is associated with conscious error recognition and remedial action.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*