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Subliminal priming of intentional inhibition.

Parkinson, J; Haggard, P; (2014) Subliminal priming of intentional inhibition. Cognition , 130 (2) 255 - 265. 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.11.005. Green open access

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Abstract

Intentional choice is an important process underlying human behaviour. Intentional inhibition refers to the capacity to endogenously cancel an about-to-be-executed action at the last moment. Previous research suggested that such intentional inhibitory control requires conscious effort and awareness. Here we show that intentional decisions to inhibit are nevertheless influenced by unconscious processing. In a novel version of the Go/No-Go task, participants made speeded keypress actions to a Go target, or withheld responses to a No-Go target, or made free, spontaneous choices whether to execute or inhibit a keypress when presented with a free-choice target. Prior to each target, subliminal masked prime arrows were presented. Primes could be congruent with the Go or No-Go arrows, or neutral. Response times and proportion of action choices were measured. Primes were presented at latencies that would give either positive or negative compatibility effects (PCE, Experiment 1, and NCE, Experiment 2, respectively), based on previous literature. Go-primes at positive-compatibility latencies facilitated speeded response times as expected, but did not influence number of choices to act on free-choice trials. However, when Go primes were presented at negative-compatibility latencies, "free" decisions to inhibit were significantly increased. Decisions to act or not can be unconsciously manipulated, at least by inhibitory mechanisms. The cognitive mechanisms for intentionally withholding an action can be influenced by unconscious processing. We discuss possible moral and legal implications of these findings.

Type: Article
Title: Subliminal priming of intentional inhibition.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.11.005
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/14250...
Additional information: �© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Go/NoGo, Inhibition, Intention, Priming, Volition
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1425008
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