On the ERN and the significance of errors

Psychophysiology. 2005 Mar;42(2):151-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2005.00270.x.


The error-related negativity (ERN) is an event-related brain potential observed when subjects commit errors. To examine whether the ERN is sensitive to the value of errors, the motivational significance of errors was manipulated in two experiments. In Experiment 1, low and high monetary value errors were compared to evaluate the effect of trial value on the ERN. In Experiment 2, subjects performed a flanker task both while their performance was being evaluated and during a control condition. Consistent with the notion that the error-detection system is sensitive to the significance of errors, the ERN was significantly larger on high-value trials in Experiment 1 and during evaluation in Experiment 2. There were no corresponding effects on the correct response negativity, and no behavioral differences between conditions were evident in either experiment. These results are discussed in terms of the functional role of the ERN in response monitoring.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology