A hierarchical model of inhibitory control

Jeggan Tiego, Renee Testa, Mark A. Bellgrove, Christos Pantelis, Sarah Whittle

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130 Citations (Scopus)


Inhibitory control describes the suppression of goal-irrelevant stimuli and behavioral responses. Current developmental taxonomies distinguish between Response Inhibition - the ability to suppress a prepotent motor response, and Attentional Inhibition - the ability to resist interference from distracting stimuli. Response Inhibition and Attentional Inhibition have exhibited moderately strong positive correlations in previous studies, suggesting they are closely related cognitive abilities. These results may reflect the use of cognitive tasks combining Stimulus-Stimulus- and Stimulus-Response-conflict as indicators of both constructs, which may have conflated their empirical association. Additionally, previous statistical modeling studies have not controlled for individual differences in Working Memory Capacity, which may account for some of the empirical overlap between Response Inhibition and Attentional Inhibition. The aim of the current study was to test a hierarchical model of inhibitory control that specifies Working Memory Capacity as a higher-order cognitive construct. Response Inhibition and Attentional Inhibition were conceptualized as lower-order cognitive mechanisms that should be empirically independent constructs apart from their shared reliance on Working Memory Capacity for active maintenance of goal-relevant representations. Measures of performance on modified stimulus-response compatibility tasks, complex memory span, and non-selective stopping tasks were obtained from 136 preadolescent children (M = 11 years, 10 months, SD = 8 months). Consistent with hypotheses, results from Structural Equation Modeling demonstrated that the Response Inhibition and Attentional Inhibition factors were empirically independent constructs that exhibited partial statistical dependence on the Working Memory Capacity factor. These findings have important implications for current theories and models of inhibitory control during development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1339
Number of pages25
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2018


  • Attentional inhibition
  • Inhibition
  • Inhibitory control
  • Response inhibition
  • Working memory capacity

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