December 4, 2014
Self-determination theory and the brain
Murayama et al. (2014) studied the effects of self-determined choice using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants in their experiment played a game-like task in which they used a stopwatch. In one condition they could choose the stopwatch themselves (self-determined-choice condition); in the other condition they could not choose but were given a stopwatch (the forced-choice condition). Although being able to choose the stopwatch or not was not relevant for the task, participants who had been allowed to choose scored significantly higher than those who weren't allowed to choose.
read more about the PF here). The vmPFC is a part of the prefrontal cortex which plays an important role in emotion regulation.
The fMRI analyses showed that failure feedback led to decreased vmPFC activity in participants in the forced-choice condition but not in participants in the self-determined-choice condition. It thus seems that negative feedback or adversity leads to loss of motivation when people haven't been able to choose but not when they were able to choose. Also, this vmPFC resilience was associated with better performance on the task.