On the ability to inhibit simple and choice reaction time responses: a model and a method

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1984 Apr;10(2):276-91. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.10.2.276.


This article reports four experiments on the ability to inhibit responses in simple and choice reaction time (RT) tasks. Subjects responding to visually presented letters were occasionally presented with a stop signal (a tone) that told them not to respond on that trial. The major dependent variables were (a) the probability of inhibiting a response when the signal occurred, (b) mean and standard deviation (SD) of RT on no-signal trials, (c) mean RT on trials on which the signal occurred but subjects failed to inhibit, and (d) estimated RT to the stop signal. A model was proposed to estimated RT to the stop signal and to account for the relations among the variables. Its main assumption is that the RT process and the stopping process race, and response inhibition depends on which process finishes first. The model allows us to account for differences in response inhibition between tasks in terms of transformations of stop-signal delay that represent the relative finishing times of the RT process and the stopping process. The transformations specified by the model were successful in group data and in data from individual subjects, regardless of how delays were selected. The experiments also compared different methods of selecting stop-signal delays to equate the probability of inhibition in the two tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Probability
  • Reaction Time*