The influence of the diffusion of responsibility effect on outcome evaluations: electrophysiological evidence from an ERP study

Neuroimage. 2010 Oct 1;52(4):1727-33. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.04.275. Epub 2010 May 7.


Previous studies have revealed that personal responsibility has an influence on outcome evaluation, although the way this influence works is still unclear. This study imitated the phenomenon of responsibility diffusion in a laboratory to examine the influence of the effect of responsibility diffusion on the processing of outcome evaluation using the event-related potential (ERP) technique. Participants of the study were required to perform the gambling task individually in the high-responsibility condition and with others in the low-responsibility scenario. Self-rating results showed that the participants felt more responsible for monetary loss and believed that they had more contributions to the monetary gains in the high-responsibility condition than in the low-responsibility situation. Both the feedback-related negativity (FRN) and the P300 were sensitive to the responsibility level, as evidenced by the enhanced amplitudes in the high-responsibility condition for both components. Further correlation analysis showed a negative correlation between FRN amplitudes and subjective rating scores (i.e., the higher the responsibility level, the larger the FRN amplitude). The results probably indicate that the FRN and P300 reflect personal responsibility processing under the social context of diffusion of responsibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Young Adult