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Unconscious priming of a no-go response


  • This research was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council grant (PTA-030-2003-01369) awarded to G. H. We are grateful to Zara Bergström, Nick Yeung, Sara Garib-Penna, and Eva Van den Bussche for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Address reprints requests to: Gethin Hughes, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, 45 rue des Sts Pères, 75270 Paris cedex 06, France. E-mail:


Although previous findings suggest that motor preparation can be initiated unconsciously, there is some debate as to whether inhibitory control can occur unconsciously. Results from research involving response conflict points to an association between inhibitory control and conscious awareness. However, no previous research has assessed whether unconscious information can influence brain activity correlates of inhibition when a response must be completely withheld. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in a go/no-go task with subliminal primes and demonstrated that inhibition-related ERP components were modulated as a function of the congruency of the primes. Furthermore, these ERP modulations were directly related to the extent to which participants' performance was influenced by the primes. These findings suggest that inhibition of an impending motor action can be initiated by an unconscious stimulus.