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A social speeded choice-reaction-time task was used to study adaptive behaviours following own and observed actions (errors and correct responses) in cooperative and competitive contexts. After making an erroneous response, the appropriate remedial action to avoid future errors in speeded reaction tasks is to slow down. Consistent with previous results, people indeed slow down following their own errors. Importantly, people who slow down most following own errors also slow down following observed errors in a cooperative situation. In a competitive context, a different pattern was found. People accelerated after errors from their opponent. The current findings demonstrate that the social context determines the way people respond to the errors of others, indicating that the neural systems that control remedial actions are highly flexible. These systems may underlie social adaptive behaviour, enabling people to respond flexibly to other people's actions in a wide variety of social contexts.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date





317 - 325


Adult, Competitive Behavior, Cooperative Behavior, Decision Making, Female, Humans, Male, Neuropsychological Tests, Reaction Time, Social Adjustment, Social Behavior, Young Adult