Event-related brain potentials reflect predictive coding of anticipated economic change

Diamantis Petropoulos Petalas*, Stefan Bos, Paul Hendriks Vettehen, Hein T. van Schie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Research has demonstrated the importance of economic forecasts for financial decisions at the aggregate economic level. However, little is known about the psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms that economic forecasts activate at the level of individual decision-making. In the present study, we used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to test the hypothesis that economic forecasts influence individuals’ internal model of the economy and their subsequent decision behavior. Using a simple economic decision-making game, the Balloon Analogue of Risk Task (BART) and predictive messages about possible economic changes in the game before each block, we test the idea that brain potentials time-locked to decision outcomes can vary as a function of exposure to economic forecasts. Behavioural results indicate that economic forecasts influenced the amount of risk that participants were willing to take. Analyses of brain potentials indicated parametric increases of the N1, P2, P3a, and P3b amplitudes as a function of the level of risk in subsequent inflation steps in the BART. Mismatches between economic forecasts and decision outcomes in the BART (i.e., reward prediction errors) were reflected in the amplitude of the P2, P3a, and P3b, suggesting increased attentional processing of unexpected outcomes. These electrophysiological results corroborate the idea that economic messages may indeed influence people’s beliefs about the economy and bias their subsequent financial decision-making. Our findings present a first important step in the development of a low-level neurophysiological model that may help to explain the self-fulfilling prophecy effect of economic news in the larger economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-982
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date18 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Attention
  • Cognitive control
  • Decision-making
  • Economic forecasting
  • ERP
  • Predictive coding


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