Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to explore the electrophysiological correlates of reward processing in the social comparison context when subjects performed a simple number estimation task that entailed monetary rewards for correct answers. Three social comparison stimulus categories (three relative reward levels/self reward related to the other subject's) were mainly prepared: Self:Other=1:2 (Disadvantageous inequity condition); Self:Other=1:1 (Equity condition); and Self:Other=2:1 (Advantageous inequity condition). Results showed that: both Disadvantageous and Advantageous inequity elicited a more negative ERP deflection (N350–550) than did Equity between 350 and 550 ms, and the generators of N350–550 were localized near the parahippocampal gyrus and the medial frontal/anterior cingulate cortex, which might be related to monitor and control reward prediction error during reward processing. Then, Disadvantageous and Advantageous inequity both elicited a more late negative complex (LNC1 and LNC2) than did Equity between 550 and 750 ms. The generators of LNC1 and LNC2 were both localized near the caudate nucleus, which might be related to reward processing under social comparison.
Qiu, Jiang; Yu, Caiyun; Li, Hong; Jou, Jerwen; Tu, Shen; Wang, Ting; Wei, Dongtao; and Zhang, Qinglin, "The impact of social comparison on the neural substrates of reward processing: An event-related potential study" (2010). Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations. 20.