Electrophysiological precursors of social conformity
Humans often change their beliefs or behavior due to the behavior or opinions of others. This study explored, with the use of human event-related potentials (ERPs), whether social conformity is based on a general performance-monitoring mechanism. We tested the hypothesis that conflicts with a normative group opinion evoke a feedback-related negativity (FRN) often associated with performance monitoring and subsequent adjustment of behavior. The experimental results show that individual judgments of facial attractiveness were adjusted in line with a normative group opinion. A mismatch between individual and group opinions triggered a frontocentral negative deflection with the maximum at 200 ms, similar to FRN. Overall, a conflict with a normative group opinion triggered a cascade of neuronal responses: from an earlier FRN response reflecting a conflict with the normative opinion to a later ERP component (peaking at 380 ms) reflecting a conforming behavioral adjustment. These results add to the growing literature on neuronal mechanisms of social influence by disentangling the conflict-monitoring signal in response to the perceived violation of social norms and the neural signal of a conforming behavioral adjustment.