Cognitive control reflects context monitoring, not motoric stopping, in response inhibition

Christopher H. Chatham, Eric D. Claus, Albert Kim, Tim Curran, Marie T. Banich, Yuko Munakata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inhibition of unwanted behaviors is considered an effortful and controlled ability. However, inhibition also requires the detection of contexts indicating that old behaviors may be inappropriate - in other words, inhibition requires the ability to monitor context in the service of goals, which we refer to as context-monitoring. Using behavioral, neuroimaging, electrophysiological and computational approaches, we tested whether motoric stopping per se is the cognitively-controlled process supporting response inhibition, or whether context-monitoring may fill this role. Our results demonstrate that inhibition does not require control mechanisms beyond those involved in context-monitoring, and that such control mechanisms are the same regardless of stopping demands. These results challenge dominant accounts of inhibitory control, which posit that motoric stopping is the cognitively-controlled process of response inhibition, and clarify emerging debates on the frontal substrates of response inhibition by replacing the centrality of controlled mechanisms for motoric stopping with context-monitoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere31546
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 27 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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