The costs and benefits of temporal predictability: impaired inhibition of prepotent responses accompanies increased activation of task-relevant responses


  • Korolczuk Inga
  • Burle Boris
  • Coull Jennifer T


  • Temporal prediction
  • Temporal preparation
  • Timing
  • Attention
  • Response inhibition
  • Response conflict

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While the benefit of temporal predictability on sensorimotor processing is well established, it is still unknown whether this is due to efficient execution of an appropriate response and/or inhibition of an inappropriate one. To answer this question, we examined the effects of temporal predictability in tasks that required selective (Simon task) or global (Stop-signal task) inhibitory control of prepotent responses. We manipulated temporal expectation by presenting cues that either predicted (temporal cues) or not (neutral cues) when the target would appear. In the Simon task, performance was better when target location (left/right) was compatible with the hand of response and performance was improved further still if targets were temporally cued. However, Conditional Accuracy Functions revealed that temporal predictability selectively increased the number of fast, impulsive errors. Temporal cueing had no effect on selective response inhibition, as measured by the dynamics of the interference effect (delta plots) in the Simon task. By contrast, in the Stop-signal task, Stop-signal reaction time, a covert measure of a more global form of response inhibition, was significantly longer in temporally predictive trials. Therefore, when the time of target onset could be predicted in advance, it was harder to stop the impulse to respond to the target. Collectively, our results indicate that temporal cueing compounded the interfering effects of a prepotent response on task performance. We suggest that although temporal predictability enhances activation of task-relevant responses, it impairs inhibition of prepotent responses.

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