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Keywords:

  • Externalizing;
  • Disinhibition;
  • Feedback-related negativity;
  • P300;
  • Event-related potential

Abstract

The externalizing dimension is viewed as a broad dispositional factor underlying risk for numerous disinhibitory disorders. Prior work has documented deficits in event-related brain potential (ERP) responses in individuals prone to externalizing problems. Here, we constructed a direct physiological index of externalizing vulnerability from three ERP indicators and evaluated its validity in relation to criterion measures in two distinct domains: psychometric and physiological. The index was derived from three ERP measures that covaried in their relations with externalizing proneness—the error-related negativity and two variants of the P3. Scores on this ERP composite predicted psychometric criterion variables and accounted for externalizing-related variance in P3 response from a separate task. These findings illustrate how a diagnostic construct can be operationalized as a composite (multivariate) psychophysiological variable (phenotype).