Antonia Barke, Stefan Bode, Peter Dechent, Carsten Schmidt-Samoa, Christina Van Heer, and Jutta Stahl (In Press)

To Err is (Perfectly) Human: Behavioural and Neural Correlates of Error Processing and Perfectionism

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The attitude towards one's own imperfection strongly varies between individuals. Here, we investigated variations in error-related activity depending on two sub-traits of perfectionism, Personal Standard Perfectionism (PSP) and Evaluative Concern Perfectionism (ECP) in a large scale functional magnetic resonance imaging study (N = 75) using a digit-flanker task. Participants with higher PSP scores showed both more post-error slowing and more neural activity in the medial-frontal gyrus including anterior cingulate cortex after errors. Interestingly, high-EC perfectionists with low PSP showed no post-error slowing and the highest activity in the middle frontal gyrus, whereas high-EC perfectionists with high PSP showed the lowest activity in this brain area and more post-error slowing. Our findings are in line with the hypothesis that perfectionists with high concerns but low standards avoid performance monitoring to avoid the worry-inducing nature of detecting personal failure and the anticipation of poor evaluation by others. However, the stronger goal-oriented performance motivation of perfectionists with high concerns and high standards may have led to less avoidance of error processing and a more intense involvement with the imperfect behaviour, which is essential for improving future performance.