Complete unconscious control: Using (in)action primes to demonstrate completely unconscious activation of inhibitory control mechanisms

Justin Hepler, Dolores Albarracin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Although robust evidence indicates that action initiation can occur unconsciously and unintentionally, the literature on action inhibition suggests that inhibition requires both conscious thought and intentionality. In prior research demonstrating automatic inhibition in response to unconsciously processed stimuli, the unconscious stimuli had previously been consciously associated with an inhibitory response within the context of the experiment, and participants had consciously formed a goal to activate inhibition processes when presented with the stimuli (because task instructions required participants to engage in inhibition when the stimuli occurred). Therefore, prior work suggests that some amount of conscious thought and intentionality are required for inhibitory control. In the present research, we recorded event-related potentials during two go/no-go experiments in which participants were subliminally primed with general action/inaction concepts that had never been consciously associated with task-specific responses. We provide the first demonstration that inhibitory control processes can be modulated completely unconsciously and unintentionally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalCognition
Volume128
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • EEG
  • Inaction
  • Inhibition
  • Self-control
  • Unconscious

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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