Reliability of triggering inhibitory process is a better predictor of impulsivity than SSRT

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2019 Jan:192:104-117. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.10.016. Epub 2018 Nov 21.


The ability to control behaviour is thought to rely at least partly on adequately suppressing impulsive responses to external stimuli. However, the evidence for a relationship between response inhibition ability and impulse control is weak and inconsistent. This study investigates the relationship between response inhibition and both self-report and behavioural measures of impulsivity as well as engagement in risky behaviours in a large community sample (N = 174) of healthy adolescents and young adults (15-35 years). Using a stop-signal paradigm with a number parity go task, we implemented a novel hierarchical Bayesian model of response inhibition that estimates stop-signal reaction time (SSRT) as a distribution and also accounts for failures to react to the stop-signal (i.e., "trigger failure"), and failure to react to the choice stimulus (i.e., "go failure" or omission errors). In line with previous studies, the model reduced estimates of SSRT by approximately 100 ms compared with traditional non-parametric SSRT estimation techniques. We found significant relationships between behavioural and self-report measures of impulsivity and traditionally estimated SSRT, that did not hold for the model-based SSRT estimates. Instead, behavioural impulsivity measures were correlated with rate of trigger failure. The relationship between trigger failure and impulsivity suggests that the former may index a higher order inhibition process, whereas SSRT may index a more automatic inhibition process. We suggest that the existence of distinct response inhibition processes that may be associated with different levels of cognitive control.

Keywords: Bayesian modelling; Impulsivity; Plausible values; Response inhibition; Stop-signal task; Trigger failure.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk-Taking
  • Young Adult