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The role of stimulus-driven versus goal-directed processes in fight and flight tendencies measured with motor evoked potentials induced by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

This study examines two contrasting explanations for early tendencies to fight and flee. According to a stimulus-driven explanation, goal-incompatible stimuli that are easy/difficult to control lead to the tendency to fight/flee. According to a goal-directed explanation, on the other hand, the tendency to fight/flee occurs when the expected utility of fighting/fleeing is the highest. Participants did a computer task in which they were confronted with goal-incompatible stimuli that were (a) easy to control and fighting had the highest expected utility, (b) easy to control and fleeing had the highest expected utility, and (c) difficult to control and fleeing and fighting had zero expected utility. After participants were trained to use one hand to fight and another hand to flee, they either had to choose a response or merely observe the stimuli. During the observation trials, single-pulse Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was applied to the primary motor cortex 450 ms post-stimulus onset and motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were measured from the hand muscles. Results showed that participants chose to fight/flee when the expected utility of fighting/fleeing was the highest, and that they responded late when the expected utility of both responses was low. They also showed larger MEPs for the right/left hand when the expected utility of fighting/fleeing was the highest. This result can be interpreted as support for the goal-directed account, but only if it is assumed that we were unable to override the presumed natural mapping between hand (right/left) and response (fight/flight).
Tijdschrift: PLOS ONE
ISSN: 1932-6203
Issue: 5
Volume: 14
BOF-publication weight:2
Authors from:Higher Education