Spider stimuli improve response inhibition

Kyle Wilson, Paul N. Russell, William S. Helton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Anxiety can have positive effects on some aspects of cognition and negative effects on others. The current study investigated whether task-relevant anxiety could improve people’s ability to withhold responses in a response inhibition task. Sixty-seven university students completed a modified and an unmodified version of the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART; Robertson, Manly, Andrade, Baddeley, & Yiend, 1997) and provided subjective measures of arousal and thoughts. Anxiety appeared to improve participants’ ability to withhold responses. Further, participants’ performance was consistent with a motor response inhibition perspective rather than a mind-wandering perspective of SART commission error performance. Errors of commission were associated with response times (speed-accuracy trade-off) as opposed to task-unrelated thoughts. Task-related thoughts were associated with the speed-accuracy trade-off. Conversely task-unrelated thoughts showed an association with errors of omission, suggesting this SART metric could be an indicator of sustained attention. Further investigation of the role of thoughts in the SART is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date12 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes


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