Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 10, pp 2797–2810 | Cite as

Hey, what is your choice? Uncertainty and inconsistency enhance subjective anticipation of upcoming information in a social context

  • Lei Wang
  • Haoye Sun
  • Lu Li
  • Liang MengEmail author
Research Article


This research examined whether uncertainty would modulate subjective anticipation during social interactions as it does in the non-social context, and further explored how response consistency between participants would influence one’s anticipation. We set up an encyclopedic knowledge quiz involving two anonymous same-sex players and manipulated the difficulty of proposed questions (high-uncertainty accompanies highly difficult questions). An enlarged stimulus-preceding negativity was observed when participants were anticipating the presentation of their counterparts’ responses to high-uncertainty questions (versus low-uncertainty ones), as well as when they were anticipating the display of correct answers to high-uncertainty questions after they found out that responses given by their partners were inconsistent (versus consistent) with their own. In addition, inconsistent responses gave rise to a more salient difference wave reward positivity and a more positive P300 during the feedback stage. Taken together, these results suggested that both uncertainty and inconsistency would enhance subjective anticipation of upcoming information during social interactions, and that inconsistency would strengthen one’s concern and attention over outcomes.


Uncertainty Consistency Subjective anticipation Event-related potentials Stimulus-preceding negativity Reward positivity 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grant number: 71701131, 71471163, 71702105], Humanities and Social Sciences Research Fund supported by Ministry of Education of China [Grant number: 17YJC630104], “Chen Guang” project [Grant number: 16CG36] supported by Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and Shanghai Education Development Foundation, the Planning Fund of Shanghai International Studies University [Grant number: 20161140012], and Chinese Academy of Engineering [2018-XY-45].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

221_2018_5336_MOESM1_ESM.tif (2.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIF 2260 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.School of Business and ManagementShanghai International Studies UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Neuromanagement LabZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  4. 4.Center for Functional NeuroimagingUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  5. 5.Laboratory of Applied Brain and Cognitive SciencesShanghai International Studies UniversityShanghaiChina

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