Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Conditioned Inhibition and its Relationship to Impulsivity: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

  • 163 Accesses

  • 1 Citations


Impulsivity is an important construct in many different fields of behavioral science. A number of authors consider response inhibition deficit as an important part of impulsive behavior. Viewpoints range from those claiming that such an inhibitory deficit is a fundamental feature of all manifestations of impulsivity, to those that consider that it is just one of various independent components of impulsive behavior. In this article, we review some of the most common laboratory procedures used to evaluate response inhibition and their relation to impulsivity. We focus on one of these procedures, conditioned inhibition, which has fallen into neglect in the impulsivity literature. We consider three main reasons for this: (1) harsh critiques of the concept of inhibition by influential theorists, (2) difficulties with the control procedures needed to demonstrate conditioned inhibition, and (3) an apparent mismatching between conditioned-inhibition performance and typical definitions of response inhibition. We provide evidence and arguments that could help to overcome those critiques and methodological and conceptual barriers. We also note that the conditions assumed to induce conditioned inhibition are present in some other paradigms designed to measure impulsivity. If our assertions are correct, then studying conditioned inhibition as a learning process is of great importance for understanding impulsive behavior. Further research is needed to test how critical conditioned inhibition is to impulsivity.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.


  1. Acebes, F., Solar, P., Moris, J., & Loy, I. (2012). Associative learning phenomena in the snail (Helix aspersa): Conditioned inhibition. Learning & Behavior, 40(1), 34–41.

  2. Ainslie, G. (1992). Picoeconomics: The interaction of successive motivational states within the person. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  3. Alderson, R. M., Rapport, M. D., Sarver, D. E., & Kofler, M. J. (2008). ADHD and behavioral inhibition: A re-examination of the stop-signal task. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 989–998.

  4. Alonso, E., Fairbank, M., & Mondragón, E. (2012). Conditioning for least action. In N. Rußwinkel, U. Drewitz, & H. van Rijn (Eds.), Proceedings 11th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM-12), pp. 234–239. Berlin: Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin.

  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

  6. Anker, J. J., Zlebnik, N. E., Gliddon, L. A., & Carroll, M. E. (2009). Performance under a go/no-go task in rats selected for high and low impulsivity with a delay-discounting procedure. Behavioural Pharmacology, 20, 406–414.

  7. Anselme, P. (2015). Incentive salience attribution under reward uncertainty: A Pavlovian model. Behavioural Processes, 111, 6–18.

  8. Bardo, M. T., Cain, M. E., & Bylica, K. E. (2006). Effect of amphetamine on response inhibition in rats showing high or low response to novelty. Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, 85(1), 98–104.

  9. Bari, A., & Robins, T. W. (2013). Inhibition and impulsivity: Behavioral and neural basis of response control. Progress in Neurobiology, 108, 44–79.

  10. Batson, J. D., & Best, M. R. (1981). Single-element assessment of conditioned inhibition. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 18(6), 328–330.

  11. Bouton, M. E., Trask, S., & Carranza-Jasso, R. (2016). Learning to inhibit the response during instrumental (operant) extinction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning & Cognition, 42(3), 246–258.

  12. Brucks, D., Marshall-Pescini, S., Wallis, L. J., Huber, L., & Range, F. (2017). Measures of dogs’ inhibitory control abilities do not correlate across tasks. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 849.

  13. Brunton, C. H. (1883). On the nature of inhibition, and the action of drugs upon it. Nature, 27, 419–422.

  14. Bryan, G., Karlan, D., & Nelson, S. (2010). Commitment devices. Annual Review of Economics, 2(1), 671–698.

  15. Bucci, D. J., Hopkins, M. E., Keene, C. S., Sharma, M., & Orr, L. E. (2008). Sex differences in learning and inhibition in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Behavior & Brain Research, 187(1), 27–32.

  16. Buss, A. H., & Plomin, R. (1975). A temperament theory of personality development. New York: Wiley.

  17. Christianson, J. P., Benison, A. M., Jennings, J., Sandsmark, E. K., Amat, J., Kaufman, R. D. . . . Maier, S. F. (2008). The sensory insular cortex mediates the stress-buffering effects of safety signals but not behavioral control. Journal of Neuroscience, 28(50), 13703–13711.

  18. Cole, R. P., Barnet, R. C., & Miller, R. R. (1997). An evaluation of conditioned inhibition as defined by Rescorla’s two test strategy. Learning & Motivation, 28, 323–341.

  19. de Wit, H., Enggasser, J. L., & Richards, J. B. (2002). Acute administration of d-amphetamine decreases impulsivity in healthy volunteers. Neuropsychopharmacology, 27(5), 813–825.

  20. Deluty, M. Z. (1978). Self-control and impulsiveness involving aversive events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 4, 250–266.

  21. Deluty, M. Z., Whitehouse, W. G., Mellitz, M., & Hineline, P. N. (1983). Self-control and commitment involving aversive events. Behaviour Analysis Letters, 3, 213–219.

  22. Dinsmoor, J. A. (2001). Stimuli inevitably generated by behavior that avoids electric shock are inherently reinforcing. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 75(3), 311–333.

  23. Donahoe, J. W., & Burgos, J. E. (1999). Timing without a timer. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 71(2), 257–263.

  24. Donahoe, J. W., & Palmer, D. C. (1988). Inhibition: A cautionary tale. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 50(2), 333–341.

  25. Dougherty, D. M., Bjork, J. M., Harper, R. A., Marsh, D. M., Moeller, F. G., Mathias, C. W., & Swann, A. C. (2003). Behavioral impulsivity paradigms: A comparison in hospitalized adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 44(8), 1145–1157.

  26. Droungas, A., & LoLordo, V. M. (1994). Evidence of simultaneous excitatory and inhibitory associations in the explicitly unpaired procedure. Learning & Motivation, 25(1), 1–25.

  27. El Massioui, N., Lamirault, C., Yagüe, S., Adjeroud, N., Garces, D., Maillard, A., . . . Doyère, V. (2016). Impaired decision making and loss of inhibitory-control in a rat model of Huntington disease. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10, 204. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00204.

  28. Enticott, P. G., Ogloff, J. R. P., & Bradshaw, J. L. (2008). Response inhibition and impulsivity in schizophrenia. Psychiatry Research, 157, 251–254.

  29. Evenden, J. L. (1999). Varieties of impulsivity. Psychopharmacology, 146, 348–361.

  30. Fernando, A. B. P., Urcelay, G. P., Mar, A. C., Dickinson, A., & Robbins, T. W. (2014). Safety signals as instrumental reinforcers during free-operant avoidance. Learning & Memory, 21, 488–497.

  31. Gallistel, C. R., & Gibbon, J. (2000). Time, rate, and conditioning. The Psychological Review, 107(2), 289–344.

  32. Gershon, J. (2002). A meta-analytic review of gender differences in ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 5, 143–154.

  33. Green, J. T., Chess, A. C., Conquest, C. J., & Yegla, B. A. (2011). Conditioned inhibition in a rodent model of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125(6), 979–987.

  34. Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2010). Experimental and correlational analyses of delay and probability discounting. In G. J. Madden & W. K. Bickel (Eds.), Impulsivity: The behavioral and neurological science of discounting (pp. 67–92). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  35. Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2013). How many impulsivities? A discounting perspective. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 99(1), 3–13.

  36. Haddad, A. D., Pritchett, D., Lissek, S., & Lau, J. Y. (2012). Trait anxiety and fear responses to safety cues: Stimulus generalization or sensitization? Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 34(3), 323–331.

  37. Haddon, J. E., & Killcross, A. S. (2005). Medial prefrontal cortex lesions abolish contextual control of competing responses. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 84, 485–504.

  38. Harmer, C. J., & Phillips, G. D. (1999). Enhanced conditioned inhibition following repeated pretreatment with d-amphetamine. Psychopharmacology, 142, 120–131.

  39. Harris, J. A., Kwok, D. W. S., & Andrew, B. J. (2014). Conditioned inhibition and reinforcement rate. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior & Cognition, 40(3), 335–354.

  40. He, Z., Cassaday, H. J., Bonardi, C., & Bibby, P. A. (2013). Do personality traits predict individual differences in excitatory and inhibitory learning? Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–12.

  41. He, Z., Cassaday, H. J., Howard, R. C., Khalifa, N., & Bonardi, C. M. (2011). Impaired Pavlovian conditioned inhibition in offenders with personality disorders. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 2334–2351.

  42. Hearst, E., Besley, S., & Farthing, G. W. (1970). Inhibition and the stimulus control of operant behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 3(2), 373–409.

  43. Hearst, E., & Franklin, S. R. (1977). Positive and negative relations between a signal and food: Approach-withdrawal behavior to the signal. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 3, 37–52.

  44. Hedge, C., Powell, G., & Summer, P. (2017). The reliability paradox: Why robust cognitive tasks do not produce reliable individual differences. Behavioral Research Methods, 1–21.

  45. Holland, P. C. (1979). Differential effects of omission contingencies on various components of Pavlovian appetitive conditioned responding in rats. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 5(2), 178.

  46. Horn, N. R., Dolan, M., Elliott, R., Deakin, J. F. W., & Woodruff, P. W. R. (2003). Response inhibition and impulsivity: An fMRI study. Neuropsychologica, 41, 1959–1966.

  47. Huddy, V. C., Clark, L., Harrison, I., Ron, M. A., Moutoussis, M., Barnes, T. R. E., & Joyce, E. M. (2013). Reflection impulsivity and response inhibition in first-episode psychosis: Relationship to cannabis use. Psychological Medicine, 43, 2097–2107.

  48. Iaboni, F., Douglas, V., & Baker, A. G. (1995). Effects of reward and response costs on inhibition in ADHD children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 104(1), 232–240.

  49. Izquierdo, A., Belcher, A. M., Scott, L., Cazares, V. A., Chen, J., O’Dell, S. J., . . . Marshall, J. F. (2010). Reversal-specific learning impairments after a binge regimen of methamphetamine in rats: Possible involvement of striatal dopamine. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 505–514.

  50. Kievit, R. A., Frankenhuis, W. E., Waldorp, L. J., & Borsboom, D. (2013). Simpson's paradox in psychological science: A practical guide. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–14.

  51. Killeen, P. R. (1978). Stability criteria. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 29(1), 17–25.

  52. Killeen, P. R. (2015). Models of ADHD: Five ways smaller sooner is better. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 252, 2–13.

  53. Killeen, P. R., & Fetterman, J. G. (1988). A behavioral theory of timing. Psychological Review, 95(2), 274–295.

  54. Kramer, T. J., & Rilling, M. (1970). Differential reinforcement of low rates: A selective critique. Psychological Bulletin, 74(4), 225–254.

  55. Laude, J. R., Stagner, J. P., & Zentall, T. R. (2014). Suboptimal choice by pigeons may result from the diminishing effect of nonreinforcement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning & Cognition, 40, 12–21.

  56. Lawrence, A., Luty, J., Bogdan, N. A., Sahakian, B. J., & Clark, L. (2009). Impulsivity and response inhibition in alcohol dependence and problem gambling. Psychopharmacology, 207, 163–172.

  57. Leitenberg, H. (1965). Is time out from positive reinforcement an aversive event? Psychological Bulletin, 64(6), 428–441.

  58. Liu, S., Heitz, R. P., & Bradberry, C. W. (2009). A touch screen based stop-signal response task in rhesus monkeys for studying impulsivity associated with chronic cocaine self-administration. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 177(1), 67–72.

  59. Logan, G. D., Schachar, R. J., & Tannock, R. (1997). Impulsivity and inhibitory control. Psychological Science, 8, 60–64.

  60. Logue, A. W. (1988). Research on self-control: An integrating framework. Behavior & Brain Science, 11, 665–709.

  61. Logue, A. W. (1995). Self-control: Waiting until tomorrow for what you want today. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

  62. Lohr, J. M., Olatunji, B. O., & Sawchuk, C. N. (2007). A functional analysis of danger and safety signals in anxiety disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 114–126.

  63. LoLordo, V. M. (1969). Positive conditioned reinforcement from aversive situations. Psychological Bulletin, 72, 193–203.

  64. LoLordo, V. M., & Fairless, J. L. (1985). Pavlovian conditioned inhibition: The literature since 1969. In R. R. Miller & N. E. Spear (Eds.), Information processing in animals: Conditioned inhibition (pp. 1–49). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  65. López, P., Alba, R., & Orduña, V. (2017). Individual differences in incentive salience attribution are not related to suboptimal choice in rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 341(2), 71–78.

  66. MacKillop, J., Weafer, J., Gray, J. C., Oshri, A., Palmer, A., & de Wit, H. (2016). The latent structure on impulsivity: Impulsive choice, impulsive action, and impulsive personality traits. Psychopharmacology, 233(18), 3361–3370.

  67. Mackintosh, N. J., & Cotton, M. M. (1985). Conditioned inhibition from reinforcement reduction. In R. R. Miller & N. E. Spear (Eds.), Information processing in animals: Conditioned inhibition (pp. 89–111). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  68. MacLeod, C. M., Dodd, M. D., Sheard, E. D., Wilson, D. E., & Bibi, U. (2003). In opposition to inhibition. Psychology of Learning & Motivation, 43, 163–215.

  69. MacLeod, J. E., Potter, A. S., Simoni, M. K., & Bucci, D. J. (2006). Nicotine administration enhances conditioned inhibition in rats. European Journal of Pharmacology, 551, 76–79.

  70. Madden, G. J., & Bickel, W. K. (2010). Impulsivity: The behavioral and neurological science of discounting. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  71. Meyer, H. C., & Bucci, D. J. (2014a). The contribution of medial prefrontal cortical regions to conditioned inhibition. Behavioral Neuroscience, 128(6), 644–653.

  72. Meyer, H. C., & Bucci, D. J. (2014b). The ontogeny of learned inhibition. Learning & Memory, 21, 143–152.

  73. Miguez, G., Soares, J. S., & Miller, R. (2015). The role of test context in latent inhibition of conditioned inhibition: Part of a search for general principles of associative interference. Learning & Behavior, 43(3), 228–242.

  74. Miller, R. R., Hallam, S. C., Hong, J. Y., & Dufore, D. S. (1991). Associative structure of differential inhibition: Implications for models of conditioned inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 17(2), 141.

  75. Miller, R. R., & Matzel, L. D. (1988). The comparator hypothesis: A response rule for the expression of associations. The Psychology of Learning & Motivation, 22, 51–92.

  76. Mischel, H. N., & Mischel, W. (1983). The development of children's knowledge of self-control strategies. Child Development, 54, 603–619.

  77. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 933–938.

  78. Mobini, S., Body, S., Ho, M. Y., Bradshaw, C. M., Szabadi, E., Deakin, J. F. W., & Anderson, I. M. (2002). Effects of lesions of the orbitofrontal cortex on sensitivity to delayed and probabilistic reinforcement. Psychopharmacology, 160, 290–298.

  79. Monterosso, J., & Ainslie, G. W. (1999). Beyond discounting: Possible experimental models of impulse control. Psychopharmacology, 146, 339–347.

  80. Moscovitch, A., & LoLordo, V. M. (1968). Role of safety in the Pavlovian backward fear conditioning procedure. Journal of Comparative & Physiological Psychology, 66(3p1), 673.

  81. Mowrer, O. H. (1956). Two-factor learning theory reconsidered, with special reference to secondary reinforcement and the concept of habit. Psychological Review, 63(2), 114–128.

  82. Nakagawa, S., & Schielzeth, H. (2010). Repeatability for Gaussian and non-Gaussian data: A practical guide for biologists. Biological Reviews, 85, 935–956.

  83. Navarra, R., Comery, T. A., Graf, R., Rosensweig-Lipson, S., & Day, M. (2007). The 5HTC2c receptor agonist WAY-163909 decreases impulsivity in the 5-choice serial reaction time test. Behavioural Brain Research, 188(2), 412–415.

  84. Nelson, J. B. (2002). Context specificity of excitation and inhibition in ambiguous stimuli. Learning & Motivation, 33, 284–310.

  85. Nigg, J. T. (2001). Is ADHD a disinhibitory disorder? Psychological Bulletin, 127(5), 571–598.

  86. Nombela, C., Rittman, T., Robbins, T. W., & Rowe, J. B. (2014). Multiple modes of impulsivity in Parkinson's disease. PLoS One, 9(1), e85747.

  87. Odum, A. L., & Bauman, A. A. L. (2010). Delay discounting: State and trait variable. In G. J. Madden & W. K. Bickel (Eds.), Impulsivity: The behavioral and neurological science of discounting (pp. 39–66). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  88. Olejnik, S., & Algina, J. (2003). Generalized eta and omega squared statistics: Measures of effect size for some common research designs. Psychological Methods, 8(4), 434–447.

  89. Orduña, V., Valencia-Torres, L., & Bouzas, A. (2009). DRL performance of spontaneously hypertensive rats: Dissociation of timing and inhibition of responses. Behavior Brain Research, 201, 158–165.

  90. Papini, M. R. (1988). Associative learning in the marsupials Didelphis albiventris and Lutreolina crassicaudata. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 102, 21–27.

  91. Papini, M. R. (2001). Comparative psychology: Evolution and development of behavior. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

  92. Papini, M. R., & Bitterman, M. E. (1993). The two-test strategy in the study of inhibitory conditioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 19(4), 342–352.

  93. Papini, M. R., & Dudley, R. T. (1997). Consequences of surprising reward omissions. Review of General Psychology, 1(2), 175–197.

  94. Papini, M. R., & White, N. (1994). Performance during signals for reward omission. Learning and Motivation, 25, 45–64.

  95. Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  96. Poulos, C. X., Parker, J. L., & Le, A. D. (1995). Impulsivity predicts individual susceptibility to high levels of alcohol self-administration. Behavioural Pharmacology, 6, 810–814.

  97. Rachlin, H. (1974). Self-control. Behaviorism, 2(1), 94–107.

  98. Rachlin, H. (1995). Self-control: Beyond commitment. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 18, 109–159.

  99. Rachlin, H., & Green, L. (1972). Commitment, choice, and self-control. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 17, 15–22.

  100. Rachlin, H., Kagel, J. H., & Battalio, R. C. (1980). Substitutability in time allocation. Psychological Review, 57, 355–374.

  101. Rachlin, H., Rainieri, A., & Cross, D. (1991). Subjective probability and delay. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 55, 233–244.

  102. Rescorla, R. A. (1969a). Conditioned inhibition of fear resulting from negative CS-US contingencies. Journal of Comparative & Physiological Psychology, 67(4), 504–509.

  103. Rescorla, R. A. (1969b). Pavlovian conditioned inhibition. Psychological Bulletin, 72(2), 77–94.

  104. Reynolds, B., de Wit, H., & Richards, J. B. (2002). Delay of gratification and delay discounting in rats. Behavioural Processes, 59, 157–168.

  105. Reynolds, B., Ortengren, A., Richards, J. B., & De Wit, H. (2006). Dimensions of impulsive behavior: Personality and behavioral measures. Personality & Individual Differences, 40, 305–315.

  106. Reynolds, B., & Schiffbauer, R. (2005). Delay of gratification and delay discounting: A unifying feedback model of delay-related impulsive behavior. The Psychological Record, 55, 439–460.

  107. Richards, J. B., Gancarz, A. M., & Hawk, L. W. (2011). Animal models of behavioral processes that underlie the occurrence of impulsive behaviors in humans. In M. T. Bardo, D. Fishbein, & R. Milich (Eds.), Inhibitory control and drug abuse prevention: From research to translation (pp. 13–41). New York, NY: Springer.

  108. Richards, J. B., Sabol, K. E., & Seiden, L. S. (1993). DRL interresponse-time distributions: Quantification by peak deviation analysis. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 60, 361–385.

  109. Robinson, E. S. J., Eagle, D. M., Economidou, D., Theobald, D. E. H., Mar, A. C., Murphy, E. R., . . . Dalley, J. W. (2009) Behavioral characterization of high impulsivity on the 5-choice serial reaction time task: Specific deficits in “waiting” versus “stopping.” Behavioural Brain Research, 196(2), 310–316.

  110. Rodriguez, M. L., Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1989). Cognitive person variables in the delay of gratification of older children at risk. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 57(2), 358–367.

  111. Rodríguez, W., Bouzas, A., & Orduña, V. (2017). Temporal discounting of aversive consequences in rats. Learning & Behavior, 1–11.

  112. Rosval, L., Steiger, H., Bruce, K., Israël, M., Richardson, J., & Aubut, M. (2006). Impulsivity in women with eating disorders: Problem of response inhibition, planning, or attention? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 39(7), 590–593.

  113. Rushen, J. (1986). The validity of behavioural measures of aversion: A review. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 16, 309–323.

  114. Russell, V. A., de Villiers, A., Sagvolden, T., Lamm, M., & Taljaard, J. (1995). Altered dopaminergic function in the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen of an animal model of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: The spontaneously hypertensive rat. Brain Research, 676, 343–351.

  115. Sanabria, F., & Killeen, P. R. (2008). Evidence for impulsivity in the spontaneously hypertensive rat drawn from a complementary response-withholding tasks. Behavioral & Brain Functions, 4, 7–24.

  116. Savastano, H. I., Cole, R. P., Barnett, R. C., & Miller, R. R. (1999). Reconsidering conditioned inhibition. Learning & Motivation, 30, 101–127.

  117. Schatz, D. B., & Rostain, A. L. (2006). ADHD with comorbid anxiety: A review of the current literature. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10, 141–149.

  118. Scheres, A., Oosterlaan, J., Swanson, J., Morein-Zamir, S., Meiran, N., Schut, H., . . . Sergeant, J. A. (2003). The effect of methylphenidate on three forms of response inhibition in boys with AD/HD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31(1), 105–120.

  119. Simon, N. W., LaSarge, C. L., Montgomery, K. S., Williams, M. T., Mendez, I. A., Setlow, B., & Bizon, J. (2010). Good things come to those who wait: Attenuated discounting of delayed rewards in aged Fischer 344 rats. Neurobiology of Aging, 31, 853–862.

  120. Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

  121. Solanto, M. V., Abikoff, H., Sonuga-Barke, E., Schachar, R., Logan, G. D., Wigal, T., . . . Turkel, E. (2001). The ecological validity of delay aversion and response inhibition of impulsivity in AD/HD: A supplement to the NIMH multimodal treatment study of AD/HD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29(3), 215–228.

  122. Sonuga-Barke, E. J. S. (2005). Causal models of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: From common simple deficits to multiple developmental pathways. Biological Psychiatry, 57(11), 1231–1238.

  123. Sosa, R., & dos Santos, C. V. (2014a). ¿Pueden estímulos relacionados con la ausencia de recompensa reducir la impulsividad en ratas? Acta Comportamentalia, 22(2), 153–167.

  124. Sosa, R., & dos Santos, C. V. (2014b). El papel de los reforzadores condicionados en la conducta autocontrolada. En M. Serrano (Ed.) La investigación del comportamiento animal en México: Teorías y estudios contemporáneos (pp. 99–113). Jalapa: Universidad Veracruzana.

  125. Sosa, R., & dos Santos, C. V. (2018). Toward a unifying account of impulsivity and the development of self-control. Perspectives on Behavioral Science, 1(1), 1–32.

  126. Stahl, C., Voss, A., Schmitz, F., Nuzbaum, M., Tüscher, O., Lieb, K., & Klauer, K. C. (2014). Behavioral components of impulsivity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 850–886.

  127. Stewart, P. W. Sargent, D. M., Reihman, J., Gump, B. B., Lonky, E., Darvill, T., . . . Pagano, J. (2006). Response inhibition during differential reinforcement of low rates (DRL) schedules may be sensitive to low-level polychlorinated biphenil, methilmercury, and lead exposure in children. Children's Health: Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(12), 1923–1929.

  128. Stout, S., Escobar, M., & Miller, R. R. (2004). Trial number and compound stimuli temporal relationship as joint determinants of second order conditioning and conditioned inhibition. Learning & Behavior, 32(2), 230–239.

  129. Swann, A. C., Lijffijt, M., Lane, S. D., Steinberg, J. L., & Moeller, F. G. (2009). Trait impulsivity and response inhibition in antisocial personality disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 1057–1063.

  130. Terrace, H. S. (1966). Discrimination learning and inhibition. Science, 154(3757), 1677–1680.

  131. Tobin, H., & Logue, W. (1994). Self-control across species (Columba livia, Homo sapiens, and Rattus norvegicus). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 108(2), 126–133.

  132. Tobler, P. N., Dickinson, A., & Schulz, W. (2003). Coding of predicted reward omission by dopamine neurons in a conditioned inhibition paradigm. Journal of Neuroscience, 23(32), 10402–10410.

  133. Tomie, A., Aguado, A. S., Pohorecky, L. A., & Benjamin, D. (1998). Ethanol induces impulsive-like responding in a delay-of-reward operant choice procedure: Impulsivity predicts autoshaping. Psychopharmacology, 139, 376–382.

  134. Trommer, B. L., Hoeppner, J. B., Lorber, R., & Armstrong, K. J. (1988). The go/no-go paradigm in attention deficit disorder. Annals of Neurology, 24(5), 610–614.

  135. Trujano, R. E., López, P., Rojas-Leguizamón, M., & Orduña, V. (2016). Optimal behavior by rats in a choice task is associated to a persistent conditioned inhibition effect. Behavioural Processes, 130, 65–70.

  136. van den Broek, M. D., Bradshaw, C. M., & Szabadi, E. (1987). Behaviour of “impulsive” and “non-impulsive” humans in a temporal differentiation schedule of reinforcement. Personality & Individual Differences, 8(2), 233–239.

  137. Vigil-Colet, A., & Codorniu-Raga, M. J. (2004). Aggression and inhibition deficits, the role of functional and dysfunctional impulsivity. Personality & Individual Differences, 37, 1431–1440.

  138. Wagner, A. R., Mazur, J. E., Donegan, N. H., & Pfautz, P. L. (1980). Evaluation of blocking and conditioned inhibition to a CS signaling a decrease in US intensity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 6(4), 376–385.

  139. Wagner, A. R., & Rescorla, R. A. (1972). Inhibition in Pavlovian conditioning: Application of a theory. In R. A. Boakes & M. S. Halliday (Eds.), Inhibition and learning (pp. 301–336). London: Academic Press.

  140. Wasserman, E. A., Franklin, S., & Hearst, E. (1974). Pavlovian appetitive contingencies and approach vs. withdrawal to conditioned stimuli in pigeons. Journal of Comparative & Physiological Psychology, 86, 616–627.

  141. Watterson, E., Mazur, G. J., & Sanabria, F. (2015). Validation of a method to assess ADHD-related impulsivity in animal models. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 252, 36–47.

  142. Wilbertz, T., Lorenz, D., Horstmann, A., Neumann, J., Villringer, A., Heinze, H., . . . Schlagenhauf, F. (2014). Response inhibition and its relation to multidimensional impulsivity. Neuroimage, 103, 241–248.

  143. Williams, D. A. (1996). A comparative analysis of negative contingency learning in humans and nonhumans. In D. R. Shanks, K. J. Holyoak, & D. L. Medin (Eds.), Causal learning (pp. 89–131). San Diego: Academic Press.

  144. Williams, D. A., Johns, K. W., & Norton, G. R. (1998). Conditioned inhibition and its applications in panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. In W. O'Donohue (Ed.), Learning & Behavior Therapy (pp. 85–106). Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.

  145. Williams, D. A., Overmier, J. B., & Lolordo, V. M. (1992). A reevaluation of Rescorla’s early dictums about conditioned inhibition. Psychological Bulletin, 111(2), 275–290.

  146. Winstanley, C. A. (2011). The utility of rat models of impulsivity in developing pharmacotherapies for impulse control disorders. British Journal of Pharmacology, 164, 1301–1321.

  147. Winstanley, C. A., Chudasama, Y., Dalley, J. W., Theobald, D. E. H., Glennon, J. C., & Robbins, T. W. (2003). Intra-prefrontal 8-OH-DPAT and M100907 improve visuospatial attention and decrease impulsivity on the five-choice serial reaction task in rats. Psychopharmacology, 167, 304–314.

  148. Winstanley, C. A., Dalley, J. K., Theobald, D. E. H., & Robbins, T. W. (2004). Fractionating impulsivity: Contrasting effects of impulsive behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 29, 1331–1343.

  149. Winstanley, C. A., Eagle, D. M., & Robbins, T. W. (2006). Behavioral models of impulsivity in relation to ADHD: Translation between clinical and preclinical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(4), 379–395.

  150. Zeeb, F. D., Floresco, S. B., & Winstanley, C. J. (2010). Contributions of the orbitofrontal cortex to impulsive choice: Interactions with basal levels of impulsivity, dopamine signalling, and reward-related cues. Psychopharmacology, 211(1), 87–98.

  151. Zilio, D. (2016). On the autonomy of psychology from neuroscience: A case study of Skinner’s radical behaviorism and behavior analysis. Review of General Psychology, 20(2), 155.

Download references


The preparation of this manuscript was supported by the Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico (DGAPA) postdoctoral fellowship grant (UNAM, 2016-2017) and by the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (SNI) grant (file 64324). Special thanks to the Facultad de Psicología and the Laboratorio de Mecanismos Neurales y Cognitivos del Aprendizaje. We thank Daniel Pearce, Nicole Muszynski, and Fred Westbrook for their helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Rodrigo Sosa.

Ethics declarations

Declaration of Conflict of Interest

Rodrigo Sosa and Cristiano V. dos Santos declare that they have no conflict of interest; we have no financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sosa, R., dos Santos, C.V. Conditioned Inhibition and its Relationship to Impulsivity: Empirical and Theoretical Considerations. Psychol Rec 69, 315–332 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-018-0325-9

Download citation


  • Conditioned inhibition
  • Impulsivity
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Response inhibition
  • Self-control
  • Soft-commitment