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ECRP09: collaboration led by Patrick Haggard: Intentional Inhibition of Human Action
Most people recognise the experience of stopping themselves 'just in time' before committing an unwise action. We call this process 'intentional inhibition'. The capacity for intentional inhibition is as important for human volition as the capacity for initiating actions, and is essential for successful social interaction. However, it has been largely ignored, perhaps because it produces no measurable behavioural output. Yet our preliminary studies successfully identified processes of intentional inhibition distinct from external inhibition previously studied with 'stop' signals.
We therefore propose the first systematic research programme on intentional inhibition of human action. Experimental paradigms for eliciting intentional inhibition are developed and implemented across four complementary laboratories. These are used to investigate psychological (CC1: London) and neural (CC2: Gent) mechanisms of intentional inhibition, and interactions of these mechanisms with reward, emotion and social context. The emergence of intentional inhibition in normal child development (CC3: Leiden) is contrasted with striking pathologies of the action/inhibition balance in Tourette's Syndrome (CC4: Hamburg). Specific research collaborations transfer knowledge and skills between partners, and integrate the various studies. We aim for a rigorous, scientific approach to a crucial but under-investigated aspect of human nature and individual behaviour.