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Title: Top-down and bottom-up influences on response inhibition
Author: Best, Maisy Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 4187
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
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Following exposure to consistent stimulus–stop mappings, response inhibition can become automatised with practice. What is learned is less clear, even though this has important theoretical and practical implications. The main contribution of this thesis is to investigate how stimulus-stop associations are acquired and the conditions under which they influence behaviour. To this end, this thesis addressed several outstanding issues concerning the associative architecture of stop learning, the role of expectancies, and the specificity of learning in inhibition tasks. Experiments 1-4 provide evidence that participants can acquire direct associations between specific stimuli and the stop goal without mediation via a single representation of the stop signal. However, these experiments also suggest that the influence of stimulus-stop associations on behaviour depends on top-down attentional settings: if participants begin to ignore the stop-associated stimuli, the effects of stop learning are diminished or eliminated entirely. Across eight experiments, this thesis provides evidence that participants generate expectancies during stop learning that are consistent with the stimulus-stop contingencies in play. However, Experiments 5-6 indicate that there may be some differences in the relationships between stimulus-stop expectancies and task performance under instructed and uninstructed conditions; stimulus-stop associations that are acquired via task instructions or via task practice have similar effects on behaviour, but seem to differ in how they trigger response slowing for the stop-associated items. Experiments 7-8 investigated the role of signal detection processes during the acquisition of stimulus-stop associations. To distinguish between stimulus-stop learning and stimulus-signal learning, the contingencies between specific stimuli and the stop goal and the contingencies between specific stimuli and the spatial location of the stop signal were independently manipulated. Although these experiments showed evidence of stop/go (goal) learning, there was no evidence that participants acquired the stimulus-signal associations. Across four experiments, this thesis investigated the specificity of stop learning. Experiments 9-10 compared the effects of training on behavioural performance in inhibition (go/no-go) and non-inhibition (two-choice) tasks. The results of these experiments revealed that learning in inhibition and non-inhibition tasks could arise through similar associative mechanisms, but suggest that the effects of training in these tasks could also depend on top-down response settings and general non-associative processes. Experiments 11-12 investigated the neural specificity of stop learning. These experiments also revealed similar effects of training across the go/no-go and two-choice tasks adding weight to the claim that training in inhibition tasks primarily influences task-general processes. Combined, the overall conclusion of this thesis is that bottom-up control can influence response inhibition but what is learned depends on top-down factors. It is therefore important to consider bottom-up factors and top-down factors as dependent, rather than independent, influences on response inhibition.
Supervisor: Verbruggen, Frederick ; Milton, Fraser Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Response Inhibition ; Learning ; Memory ; Inhibition Control Training