Abstract

Surpassing negative evaluation is a recurrent theme of success stories. Yet, there is little evidence supporting the counterintuitive idea that negative evaluation might not only motivate people, but also enhance performance. To address this question, we designed a task that required participants to decide whether taking up a risky challenge after receiving positive or negative evaluations from independent judges. Participants believed that these evaluations were based on their prior performance on a related task. Results showed that negative evaluation caused a facilitation in performance. Concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that the motivating effect of negative evaluation was represented in the insula and striatum, while the performance boost was associated with functional positive connectivity between the insula and a set of brain regions involved in goal-directed behavior and the orienting of attention. These findings provide new insight into the neural representation of negative evaluation-induced facilitation.

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