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The Inhibitory Spillover Effect: How increased urination urgency enhances accuracy on reaction time tasks

Stainer, Candida (2017) The Inhibitory Spillover Effect: How increased urination urgency enhances accuracy on reaction time tasks. University of Portsmouth. (Unpublished)


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Evidence from neuropsychological research has implicated specific regions in the brain as the control centres for all types of inhibitory processes. One aspect of this inhibitory network system that has been explored is the spillover of inhibition from one domain to another. The idea that inhibition in one area can lead to inhibition in another area has been termed the Inhibitory Spillover Effect (ISE). This effect has been examined in applied settings such as lie detection where it is alleged that inhibition in one domain (suppression of the desire to urinate) has led to superior deception allegedly due to an increased ability to suppress deceitful cues. Further research investigating this effect in decision-making has also revealed enhanced restraint over impulses; however, no research has examined whether the ISE really does have an effect on cognitive tasks that are expressly designed to examine the processes of inhibition. Therefore we examined the effect of inhibiting urination on performance of two Go/No-go tasks and two CRT tasks that have been proven to activate inhibitory processes. From a sample of 30 University undergraduates, we compared reaction time and accuracy performance of individuals inhibited in the motor domain (increased urge to urinate) with individuals who were not. Our findings revealed a spillover effect onto these cognitive processes, with inhibited individuals less prone to error than the control group. As reaction time remained the same for both groups we suggest that the ISE reduces speed-accuracy trade-offs, with inhibited individuals processing correct responses without a detrimental effect to speed. The findings from this study offer new insight into the results found in applied research, indicating the ISE as highly beneficial to everyday functioning. Future research may explore the post-effects of urination inhibition on the same processes in order to determine whether performance is impaired

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