Introduction: The neural activity in response to ineffective joint actions was explored in the present study. Subjects involved in a cooperative but frustrating task (poor performance as manipulated by an external feedback) were required to cooperate (T1) during an attentional task in a way to synchronize their responses and obtain better outcomes. Methods: We manipulated their strategies by providing false feedbacks (T2) signaling the incapacity to create a synergy, which was reinforced by a general negative evaluation halfway through the game. A control condition was provided (no cooperation required, T0) as well as a check for possible learning effect (time series analysis). The effects of the feedback in modulating subjects' behavioral performance and electrocortical activity were explored by means of brain oscillations (delta, theta, alpha, beta) and autonomic activity (heart rate, HR; skin conductance activity, SCR). Results: Results showed a specific pattern of behavioral, neural, and peripheral responses after the social feedback. In fact, within this condition, worse behavioral outcomes emerged, with longer response times with respect to the prefeedback one. In parallel, a specific right-lateralized effect was observed over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), with increased delta and theta power compared to the previous condition. Moreover, increased SCR was observed with respect to the first part. Conclusions: Two interpretations are put forward to explain the present findings: 1) the contribution of negative emotions in response to failing interactions or 2) a motivational disengagement toward goal-oriented cooperation elicited by frustrating evaluations.
- negative feedback
- skin conductance activity