Stop paying attention: the need for explicit stopping in inhibitory control

Abstract

Inhibitory control, the ability to stop inappropriate actions, is an important cognitive function often investigated via the stop-signal task, in which an infrequent stop signal instructs the subject to stop a default go response. Previously, we proposed a rational decision-making model for stopping, suggesting the observer makes a repeated Go versus Wait choice at each instant, so that a Stop response is realized by repeatedly choosing to Wait. We propose an alternative model here that incorporates a third choice, Stop. Critically, unlike the Wait action, choosing the Stop action not only blocks a Go response at the current moment but also for the remainder of the trial -- the disadvantage of losing this flexibility is balanced by the benefit of not having to pay attention anymore. We show that this new model both reproduces known behavioral effects and has internal dynamics resembling presumed Go neural activations in the brain.


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