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Neural Correlate of Acceptance: Relating Individual Differences in Dispositional Acceptance to Error Processing

Abstract

Objectives

Many of the observed benefits following mindfulness training are associated with changes to acceptance, characterized by having less reactivity to, and judgment of, one’s experiences. Acceptance may be particularly relevant to the processing of errors, as errors often enlist difficult cognitive and affective reactions. Error processing can be measured by error-related negativity (ERN), a negative deflection that directly reflects the brain’s signal of error processing. The present study examined whether error processing may be a neural correlate of acceptance at the dispositional level in non-clinical populations, outside the context of meditation training.

Methods

Thirty-seven participants, with a mean age of 22 years (SD = 5.79), 48.6% female, completed a Go/No-Go (GNG) task while their performance was monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the ERN and the co-occurring behaviors of response inhibition. Acceptance was measured by the nonreactivity and nonjudging subscales of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ).

Results

Nonreactivity correlated with a less negative ERN (r = 0.43, p = 0.01, 95% CI = [0.11, 0.67]), and higher acceptance correlated with faster reaction time (r = − 0.48, p = 0.003, 95% CI = [− 0.70, − 0.18]), without any trade-offs in accuracy.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that individuals higher in acceptance may process errors and competing responses with less neural activity while still displaying similar behavioral responses. Given the limited objective measures for assessing acceptance and the benefits associated with acceptance, the presence of these neural and behavioral correlates of acceptance may inform the clinical research of mindfulness interventions.

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ELC: conceptualized the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript. NR: collaborated with the conceptualization of the study, and writing of the final manuscript. KHR: designed and executed the experiment. JC: collaborated with the experimental design, conceptualization of the study, and writing of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joshua C. Felver.

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Cary, E.L., Russo, N., Racer, K.H. et al. Neural Correlate of Acceptance: Relating Individual Differences in Dispositional Acceptance to Error Processing. Mindfulness 11, 1401–1412 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01368-9

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Keywords

  • Acceptance
  • Mindfulness
  • Nonreactivity
  • ERN
  • Performance monitoring