Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Cognitive Neuroscience


Jennifer A. Mangels

Subject Categories

Behavioral Neurobiology | Cognitive Neuroscience | Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Neuroscience | Educational Psychology | Psychology | School Psychology


neuroscience, motivation, electroencephalogram, event-related potential, learning, effort


The development of effective educational curricula for enhancing learning involves the crucial consideration of effort and rewards. In the realm of education, teachers commonly employ rewards as motivational tools. Traditionally, these rewards are given to students as a recognition of their successful performance. However, a thought-provoking idea emerges: What if we were to extend rewards to students not solely based on accurate answers, but also on the effort they invest, even in cases where their actual response might be incorrect? Our study explores the potential impact of this approach on the way information is absorbed and subsequently retained, specifically focusing on corrective information.

Using Electroencephalography (EEG) we examined both behavioral indicators of error correction subsequent to the presence or absence of reward-based feedback, alongside extensively studied event-related potential (ERP) indicators associated with negative feedback and reward processing.

We found no statistically significant effect of reward on error correction in this small sample. However, participants were more likely to correct items they had initially answered incorrectly if the answer they gave had been “eligible” for a reward or was given with high confidence, regardless of whether it was actually rewarded or not, corresponding to previous findings. Interestingly, a trend for an interaction emerged suggesting that to the extent that rewarding effort had an influence on learning, it did so by motivating greater attention to the task overall, resulting in greater error correction following lower quality (i.e., reward ineligible) responses rather than to those items that were specifically rewarded. Although these results did not yet reach statistical significance, they do support the value of continued research to explore the complex interrelationships existing between effortful rewards and task engagement in learning.