Can arousal modulate response inhibition?

Noam Weinbach, Eyal Kalanthroff, Amir Avnit, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The goal of the present study was to examine if and how arousal can modulate response inhibition. Two competing hypotheses can be drawn from previous literature. One holds that alerting cues that elevate arousal should result in an impulsive response and therefore impair response inhibition. The other suggests that alerting enhances processing of salient events and can therefore enhance processing of a cue that indicates to withhold a response and improve response inhibition. In a stop-signal task, participants were required to withhold prepotent responses when a stop signal followed target onset. Abrupt alerting cues preceded the target in one half of the trials. The results showed that alerting improved response inhibition as indicated by shorter stop-signal reaction times following an alerting cue compared with a no-alerting condition. We conclude that modulation of low-level operations can influence what are considered to be higher cognitive functions to achieve optimal goal-directed behavior. However, we stress that such interactions should be treated cautiously as they do not always reflect direct links between lower and higher cognitive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1877
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Alerting
  • Arousal
  • Inhibitory control
  • Response inhibition
  • Stop signal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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