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Psychol Rev. 2014 Jan;121(1):66-95. doi: 10.1037/a0035230.

On the ability to inhibit thought and action: general and special theories of an act of control.

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Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University.
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University.
Department of Psychology, University of Exeter.
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam.


Response inhibition is an important act of control in many domains of psychology and neuroscience. It is often studied in a stop-signal task that requires subjects to inhibit an ongoing action in response to a stop signal. Performance in the stop-signal task is understood as a race between a go process that underlies the action and a stop process that inhibits the action. Responses are inhibited if the stop process finishes before the go process. The finishing time of the stop process is not directly observable; a mathematical model is required to estimate its duration. Logan and Cowan (1984) developed an independent race model that is widely used for this purpose. We present a general race model that extends the independent race model to account for the role of choice in go and stop processes, and a special race model that assumes each runner is a stochastic accumulator governed by a diffusion process. We apply the models to 2 data sets to test assumptions about selective influence of capacity limitations on drift rates and strategies on thresholds, which are largely confirmed. The model provides estimates of distributions of stop-signal response times, which previous models could not estimate. We discuss implications of viewing cognitive control as the result of a repertoire of acts of control tailored to different tasks and situations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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