Stopping at a red light: Recruitment of inhibitory control by environmental cues

Shachar Hochman, Avishai Henik, Eyal Kalanthroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Environmental cues can influence basic perceptual and attentional processes especially in an emotional context. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the effect of a non-emotional common environmental cue―a traffic light—on a higher cognitive operation―inhibition. In two experiments, we administered a novel version of the stop-signal task, in which the go task was to determine the color of a traffic light. In order to investigate the influence of each of the cues on inhibitory processes, separate tracking procedures (one for each cue) were applied simultaneously to the stop-signal delay. In Experiment 1, we found that reaction time in no-stop-signal trials was faster when a green traffic light was present, whereas stop-signal reaction time was longer when a red traffic light was present. In Experiment 2, neutral control cues were used in addition to a red and green light. The results indicate that the differences between red and green stem from an association between the color red and stop processes (rather than from the green-go association). These results strengthen previous findings showing the effect of environmental cues on attentional processes and go beyond them by showing that the effect is not restricted to emotional cues. Most importantly, the current study results suggest that environmental cues can also influence complex cognitive operations such as inhibitory control. These results might have specific implications for our understanding of the processes that underlie specific psychiatric disorders characterized by inhibitory deficit.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0196199
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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