Development of inhibitory control across the life span

Dev Psychol. 1999 Jan;35(1):205-13. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.35.1.205.


The stop-signal procedure was used to examine the development of inhibitory control. A group of 275 participants, 6 to 81 years of age, performed a visual choice reaction time (go) task and attempted to inhibit their responses to the go task when they heard a stop signal. Reaction times to the stop and go signals were used to assess performance in inhibition and response execution, respectively. Results indicated the speed of stopping becomes faster with increasing age throughout childhood, with limited evidence of slowing across adulthood. By contrast, strong evidence was obtained for age-related speeding of go-signal reaction time throughout childhood, followed by marked slowing throughout adulthood. Hierarchical regression confirmed that the age-related change in inhibitory control could not be explained by general speeding or slowing of responses. Findings are discussed in regard to the contrast between the development of inhibition and response execution and the utility of the stop-signal procedure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiopathology*
  • Individuality
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Volition / physiology*