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Keywords:

  • Intention;
  • Response inhibition;
  • Action;
  • Heart rate;
  • Development

Abstract

The ability to inhibit is a major developmental dimension. Previous studies examined developmental change in instructed inhibition. The current study, however, focused on intentional inhibition. We examined heart rate responses to intentional action and inhibition, with a focus on developmental differences. Three age groups (8–10, 11–12, and 18–26 years) performed a child-friendly marble paradigm in which they had to choose between intentionally acting on, or inhibiting, a prepotent response. As instructed, all age groups chose to intentionally inhibit on approximately 50 percent of the intentional trials. A pronounced heart rate deceleration was observed during both intentional action and intentional inhibition, but this deceleration was most pronounced for intentional inhibition. Heart rate responses did not differentiate between age groups, suggesting that intentional action and inhibition reach mature levels early in childhood.