Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Several converging lines of evidence suggest that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is selectively involved in error detection or evaluation of poor performance. Here we challenge this notion by presenting event-related potential (ERP) evidence that the feedback-elicited error-related negativity, an ERP component attributed to the ACC, can be elicited by positive feedback when a person is expecting negative feedback and vice versa. These results suggest that performance monitoring in the ACC is not limited to error processing. We propose that the ACC acts as part of a more general performance-monitoring system that is activated by violations in expectancy. Further, we propose that the common observation of increased ACC activity elicited by negative events could be explained by an overoptimistic bias in generating expectations of performance. These results could shed light into neurobehavioral disorders, such as depression and mania, associated with alterations in performance monitoring and also in judgments of self-related events.