Stopping a response when you really care about the action: Considerations from a clinical perspective

Sharon Morein-Zamir, Gideon Anholt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Response inhibition, whether reactive or proactive, is mostly investigated in a narrow cognitive framework. We argue that it be viewed within a broader frame than the action being inhibited, i.e., in the context of emotion and motivation of the individual at large. This is particularly important in the clinical domain, where the motivational strength of an action can be driven by threat avoidance or reward seeking. The cognitive response inhibition literature has focused on stopping reactively with responses in anticipation of clearly delineated external signals, or proactively in limited contexts, largely independent of clinical phenomena. Moreover, the focus has often been on stopping efficiency and its correlates rather than on inhibition failures. Currently, the cognitive and clinical perspectives are incommensurable. A broader context may explain the apparent paradox where individuals with disorders characterised by maladaptive action control have difficulty inhibiting their actions only in specific circumstances. Using Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a case study, clinical theorising has focused largely on compulsions as failures of inhibition in relation to specific internal or external triggers. We propose that the concept of action tendencies may constitute a useful common denominator bridging research into motor, emotional, motivational, and contextual aspects of action control failure. The success of action control may depend on the interaction between the strength of action tendencies, the ability to withhold urges, and contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number979
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Proactive control
  • Reactive control
  • Response inhibition
  • Stop signal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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