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Olav Krigolson, Scott Whitaker, Laura MacKenzie, Cameron Hassall; Hot or Not? Perceived Attractiveness Activates Reward Processes Within Medial-Frontal Cortex. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1283. doi: 10.1167/14.10.1283.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Utilitarian theory posits that we are driven by an inherent desire to maximize reward. Not to be superficial - but given this logic when one views an attractive face the face should be desired and processed as a reward whereas when one views an unattractive face it should be processed as a punishment. Indeed, research using functional magnetic resonance imaging supports this hypothesis – in a seminal study Aharon and colleagues (2001) showed that the viewing of attractive faces activated neural reward circuitry relative to the viewing of unattractive faces. Here, we sought to provide electroencephalographic (EEG) support for this hypothesis. Specifically, we recorded electroencephalographic data while participants viewed and rated faces on a Likert scale for attractiveness. Following data collection we used the participants' ratings to code faces as either being attractive or unattractive. Based on these codings, an analysis of our electroencephalographic data revealed that a contrast of "attractive" and "unattractive" faces revealed an event-related brain potential component with a timing and scalp topography consistent with the feedback error-related negativity (fERN) – a component previously shown to be sensitive to reward feedback. Further, localization of the fERN we observed revealed a source within the anterior cingulate cortex – a result also consistent with previous accounts of the fERN. Importantly, our results provide further support for the hypothesis that perceived attractiveness activates reward-processing circuitry within the medial-frontal cortex.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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