Inhibitory Control During Emotional Distraction Across Adolescence and Early Adulthood


  • This study was supported by the Center for Neurobehavioral Development (NIH T32 MH73129) and the Center for Cognitive Sciences (NIH T32 HD007151) at the University of Minnesota. The authors thank Christina Shoaf, Daniel Rinker, and Tim Hoppenrath for assistance with data collection, and Marisa Silveri, Jennifer Wenner, and Ruskin Hunt for editorial comments.


This study investigated the changing relation between emotion and inhibitory control during adolescence. One hundred participants between 11 and 25 years of age performed a go-nogo task in which task-relevant stimuli (letters) were presented at the center of large task-irrelevant images depicting negative, positive, or neutral scenes selected from the International Affective Picture System. Longer reaction times for negative trials were found across all age groups, suggesting that negative but not positive emotional images captured attention across this age range. However, age differences in accuracy on inhibitory trials suggest that response inhibition is more readily disrupted by negative emotional distraction in early adolescence relative to late childhood, late adolescence, or early adulthood.