Representing the consequences of intentionally inhibited actions

Patrick Haggard*, Simmy Poonian, Eamonn Walsh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The experience of planning an action but then changing our minds and cancelling the action at the last instant is a common one. Here, we instructed participants to prepare voluntary (keypress) actions and sometimes intentionally inhibit them at the last possible moment. Participants could freely choose between left and right hand actions. Keypresses produced either a congruent (80% probability) or an incongruent (20% probability) tone after a short delay. If no voluntary action was made within a defined response window, one of the tones was nevertheless presented a short time later. At the end of the trial, participants judged the time of tone onset. We used an established marker to measure the experience of control, namely the intentional binding of the tone backwards in time towards the action that caused it. Results showed that voluntary actions produced the expected temporal binding of tones back towards the preceding action. In contrast, we found an opposite trend towards repulsion of the tone in intentional inhibition trials. When people intentionally inhibit a planned action, their experience of a subsequent event that was associated with the action is severely affected. Our results suggest that intentional inhibition is a specific cognitive process that strongly influences action prediction and action experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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