Conceptual knowledge influences decision making differently in individuals with high or low cognitive flexibility: an ERP study

Xiaofei Dong, Xiumin Du, Bing Qi

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Studies using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) have distinguished between good and bad decision makers and have provided an explanation for deficits in decision making. Previous studies have demonstrated a link between Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) performance and IGT performance, but the results were not consistent and failed to explain why WCST performance can predict IGT performance. The present study aimed to demonstrate that WCST performance can predict IGT performance and to identify the cognitive component of the WCST that affects IGT performance using event-related potentials (ERPs).

In this study, 39 healthy subjects (5 subjects were excluded) were divided into a high group and a low group based on their global score on the WCST. A single-choice version of the IGT was used to eliminate the impact of retrieval strategies on the choice evaluation process and interference due to uncorrelated decks. Differences in the underlying neural mechanisms and explicit knowledge between the two groups during the three stages of the decision-making process were described.

Based on the information processing perspective, we divided the decision-making process into three stages: choice evaluation, response selection, and feedback processing. The behavioral results showed that the highly cognitively flexible participants performed better on the IGT and acquired more knowledge of the task. The ERP results showed that during the choice evaluation stage, the P300 recorded from central and parietal regions when a bad deck appeared was larger in the high group participants than in the low group participants. During the response selection stage, the effect of choice type was significant only in the frontal region in the high group, with a larger effect for passing. During the feedback evaluation stage, a larger FRN was evoked for a loss than for a win in the high group, whereas the FRN effect was absent in the low group.

Compared with the participants with low cognitive flexibility, the participants with high cognitive flexibility performed better on the IGT, acquired more knowledge of the task, and displayed more obvious somatic markers. The low group participants showed reduced working memory abilities during the choice evaluation stage. The appropriate somatic markers reflected by the DPN is formed only when conceptual knowledge is gained in the response selection stage. The absence of an FRN effect in the subjects who performed poorly on the WCST suggests a significant deficit in feedback learning and reward prediction.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158875
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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