Were we erring? The impact of worry and arousal on error-related negativity in a non-clinical sample

Kai Härpfer, Hannes Per Carsten, Daniel Spychalski, Norbert Kathmann, Anja Riesel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The monitoring of one's own actions allows humans to adjust to a changing and complex world. Previous neuroscientific research found overactive action monitoring and increased sensitivity to errors to be associated with anxiety and it is assumed to contribute to the development and maintenance of anxiety symptoms. A largely shared decomposition of anxiety differentiates two dimensions: anxious apprehension (i.e., worry) and anxious arousal (i.e., physiological hyperarousal). Alterations in neural correlates of error monitoring have been more closely linked to anxious apprehension compared to anxious arousal. This study examined the relationship between anxiety dimensions and electrophysiological correlates of action monitoring (i.e., error-related negativity, ERN, and correct-response negativity, CRN). A total of 135 non-clinical participants performed a flanker task while their electroencephalogram was recorded. We recruited participants with converging and diverging anxiety dimension profiles (i.e., above or below median in anxious apprehension and anxious arousal or above median in one and below in the other dimension). This grouping strategy facilitates disentangling possible interactions and allows the investigation of the isolated effect of each anxiety dimension. Regression analyses did not reveal a significant main or interaction effect of anxiety dimensions on ERN or CRN, irrespective of gender. In addition, Bayesian statistical analyzes yielded evidence for the absence of an association between both anxiety dimensions and ERN and CRN. Altogether, our results suggest that the association of anxiety dimensions, particularly anxious apprehension, and action monitoring might be smaller in non-clinical samples as previous studies indicate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e13661
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Psychophysiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Psychophysiological Research.


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