Theta oscillations in the EEG have been shown to reflect ongoing cognitive processes related to mental effort. Here, we show that the pattern of theta oscillation in response to varying cognitive demands reflects stable individual differences in the personality trait epistemic motivation: Individuals with high levels of epistemic motivation recruit relatively more cognitive resources in response to situations possessing high, compared to low, cognitive demand; individuals with low levels do not show such a specific response. Our results provide direct evidence for the theory of the construct need for cognition and add to our understanding of the neural processes underlying theta oscillations. More generally, we provide an explanation how individual differences in personality traits might be represented on a neural level.
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