The purpose of this ERP P3 study was to test a peer observation manipulation (being observed by a peer versus being alone) on neural markers of attention to reward (win-feedback) and punishment (loss-feedback) during the Balloon Analogue Risk Task. Participants (126 children, 53 % male, 8-10 years; 196 early adolescents, 50 % male, 11-13 years; and 121 mid-adolescents, 52 % male, 14-16 years) were assessed by age group and pubertal status. Individual differences in how participants felt about being observed by a peer, and self-report personality factors, also were examined. Findings indicated that early and mid-adolescents (and individuals in mid-puberty and late-puberty) were sensitive to peer observation as both groups showed larger neural responses to loss-feedback in the peer condition than in the alone condition. Conversely, children (and individuals in pre- and early-puberty) were unaffected by peer observation. In addition, there clearly were individual differences in how rewarding versus anxiety-provoking participants found the peer experience. Early adolescents and mid-adolescents (and individuals in mid- and late-puberty) who reported feeling more anxious about the peer observation elicited larger neural responses to loss-feedback, and individuals in mid- and late-puberty in particular reported higher worry and lower sensation-seeking scores than those who reported a positive experience.
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