Deficient inhibitory control and difficulty resolving uncertainty are central in psychopathology. How these factors interact remains unclear. Initial evidence suggests that inducing inhibitory control improves resolution of uncertainty. This may occur only when participants overcome action tendencies, which are dominant tendencies to perform certain behaviors. Our study explored the links between inhibitory control and behavioral responses to uncertainty while manipulating actiontendencies' strength. In three experiments, 132 undergraduates completed a task that combined induction of momentary changes in inhibitory control level (Stroop task), with responses to uncertainty (visual-search task). We manipulated actiontendencies' strength by varying uncertainty proportions across experiments. Results indicated that momentary induction of inhibitory control improved resolution of high-uncertainty during mostly low-uncertainty trials but hampered resolution of low-uncertainty during mostly high-uncertainty trials. Identical inhibitory control induction did not affect resolution of uncertainty when uncertainty conditions were equalized. Participants' subjective uncertainty measures were similar across experiments. Our results suggest that momentary inhibitory control induction modifies behavioral responses to uncertainty and selectively affects trials that require overcoming dominant action tendencies. These findings indicate a potentially unique and multifaceted relationship between inhibitory control and behavioral responses to uncertainty. Clinical implications for models of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and experimental implications to post-conflict processes are discussed.
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- Action tendencies
- Inhibitory control
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Stroop task