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The present study tested whether energy-minimizing behaviors evoke reward-related brain activity that promotes the repetition of these behaviors via reinforcement learning processes. Fifty-eight healthy young adults in a standing position performed a task where they could earn a reward either by sitting down or squatting while undergoing electroencephalographic (EEG) recording. Reward-prediction errors were quantified as the amplitude of the EEG-derived reward positivity. Results showed that reward positivity was larger on reward versus no reward trials, confirming the validity of our paradigm to measure evoked reward-related brain activity. However, results showed no evidence that sitting (versus standing and squatting) trials led to larger reward positivity. Moreover, we found no evidence suggesting that this effect was moderated by typical physical activity, physical activity on the day of the study, or energy expenditure during the experiment. However, at the behavioral level, results showed that the probability of choosing the stimulus more likely to lead to sitting than standing increased as the number of trials increased. In addition, results revealed that the probability of changing the selected stimulus was higher when the previous trial was a stand trial relative to a sit trial. In sum, neural results showed no evidence supporting the theory that opportunities to minimize energy expenditure are rewarding. However, behavioral findings suggested participants tend to choose the less effortful behavioral alternative and were therefore consistent with the theory of effort minimization (TEMPA).

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2023, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International license. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Cortex,

Available for download on Tuesday, October 01, 2024

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