A high-density EEG investigation into the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying differences between personality profiles in social information processing

Czekóová K, Shaw DJ, Lamoš M, Špiláková BH, Salazar M, Roman R, Brázdil M.

Scand J Psychol. 2022 May 6. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12824. Epub ahead of print. PMID:35524466.

17 May 2022

This study investigated whether differences between personality styles in the processing of social stimuli reflect variability in underlying general-purpose or social-specific neurocognitive mechanisms. Sixty-five individuals classified previously into two distinct personality profiles underwent high-density electroencephalography whilst performing tasks that tap into both aspects of cognitive processing - namely, two distinct facets of general-purpose response inhibition (interference resolution and action withholding) during social information processing. To determine the stage of processing at which personality differences manifest, we assessed event-related components associated with the early visual discrimination of social stimuli (N170, N190) and later more general conflict-related processes (N2, P3). Although a performance index of interference resolution was comparable between the personality profiles, differences were detected in action withholding. Specifically, individuals expressing a wider repertoire of personality styles and more adaptive emotion regulation performed significantly better at withholding inappropriate actions to neutral faces presented in emotional contexts compared with those exhibiting stronger preferences for fewer and less adaptive personality styles and more ruminative affective tendencies. At the neurophysiological level, however, difference between the profiles was observed in brain responses elicited to the same stimuli within the N170. These results indicate that neural processes related to early visual discrimination might contribute to differences in the suppression of inappropriate responses towards social stimuli in populations with different personality dispositions.

Keywords: action orientation; action withholding; interference resolution; personality; response inhibition; social cognition.

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