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Recent studies have documented that self-determined choice does indeed enhance performance. However, the precise neural mechanisms underlying this effect are not well understood. We examined the neural correlates of the facilitative effects of self-determined choice using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants played a game-like task involving a stopwatch with either a stopwatch they selected (self-determined-choice condition) or one they were assigned without choice (forced-choice condition). Our results showed that self-determined choice enhanced performance on the stopwatch task, despite the fact that the choices were clearly irrelevant to task difficulty. Neuroimaging results showed that failure feedback, compared with success feedback, elicited a drop in the vmPFC activation in the forced-choice condition, but not in the self-determined-choice condition, indicating that negative reward value associated with the failure feedback vanished in the self-determined-choice condition. Moreover, the vmPFC resilience to failure in the self-determined-choice condition was significantly correlated with the increased performance. Striatal responses to failure and success feedback were not modulated by the choice condition, indicating the dissociation between the vmPFC and striatal activation pattern. These findings suggest that the vmPFC plays a unique and critical role in the facilitative effects of self-determined choice on performance.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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