Task-irrelevant odours affect both response inhibition and response readiness in fast-paced Go/No-Go task: the case of valence


Whether emotional stimuli influence both response readiness and inhibition is highly controversial. Visual emotional stimuli appear to interfere with both under certain conditions (e.g., task relevance). Whether the effect is generalisable to salient yet task-irrelevant stimuli, such as odours, remains elusive. We tested the effect of orthonasally-presented pleasant (orange) and unpleasant odours (trimethyloxazole and hexenol) and clean air as a control on response inhibition. In emotional Go/No-Go paradigms, we manipulated the intertrial interval and ratios of Go/No-Go trials to account for motor (Experiment 1, N = 31) and cognitive (Experiment 2, N = 29) response inhibition processes. In Experiment 1, participants had greater difficulty in withholding and produced more accurate and faster Go responses under the pleasant vs. the control condition. Faster Go responses were also evident in the unpleasant vs. the control condition. In Experiment 2, neither pleasant nor unpleasant odours modulated action withholding, but both elicited more accurate and faster Go responses as compared to the control condition. Pleasant odours significantly impair action withholding (as compared to the control condition), indicating that more inhibitory resources are required to elicit successful inhibition in the presence of positive emotional information. This modulation was revealed for the motor aspect of response inhibition (fast-paced design with lower Go/No-Go trial ratio) rather than for attentional interference processes. Response readiness is critically impacted by the emotional nature of the odour (but not by its valence). Our findings highlight that the valence of task-irrelevant odour stimuli is a factor significantly influencing response inhibition.

Scientific Reports, 9, 19329
Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology