Go/No-Go Task

Studies: 241   |   Proportions of No-Go: 6-60%   |   Trial durations: 800-17500 ms

Publications    |    Proportion of No-Go    |    Maximum Trial Duration    |    Authors    |    Recommendations

how to cite this?

These visualizations and analyses are based on data kindly provided by Jan Wessel (U of Iowa). Whenever you refer to this website, please also cite

Wessel, J. R. (2017). Prepotent motor activity and inhibitory control demands in different variants of the Go/No-go paradigm. Psychophysiology. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12871

Problems with inference come in many forms. Flexibility is often discussed in terms of p-hacking, deliberate practices to increase the probability of observing statistical significance. Here is a neglected area that also suffers from lacking standardization: measurement validity.

What is the Go/No-Go Task?

The Go/No-Go task is a computerized test used to assess inhibitory control, a cognitive process that enables humans to rapidly cancel motor activity even after its initiation. Each trial consists of one stimulus either indicating either "Go" (respond) or "No-Go". Thus, prepotent motor activity is elicited, which then sometimes has to be inhibited. The response accuracy of each No-Go trial is used as a measure for inhibitory control.

How the Go/No-Go Task is Flexible

The most critical component in designing an inhibitory control task is to ensure that motor activity is elicited on each trial, so that No-Go trials truly test inhibitory control. In order to elicit prepotent motor activity ("Go"), which then sometimes has to be inhibited ("No-Go"), two parameters of the experimental design are important: First, the relative proportion of Go and No-Go trials should be set so that No-Go trials are less frequent, making it strategically beneficial to initiate a Go response on every trial. Second, trials should be presented at a rapid pace, so that responses will have to be made quickly (Wessel, 2017). However, despite these well-known considerations, about 40% of published Go/No-Go experiments have equiprobable Go and No-Go trials. Additionally, while most studies present stimuli at relatively rapid pace, almost 20% of studies use maximum trial durations greater than 4000 ms, which allows a conscious response to the stimulus instead of a prepotent response or its immediate inhibition.

Why the Flexibility is Problematic

It is important to emphasize that the No-Go trial proportion and stimulus duration are always set a priori, not after data collection. Thus, the problems with flexibility and lack of standardization across the Go/No-Go literature are not related to p-hacking; rather, they concern the validity of the Go/No-Go task. If motor activity is not elicited on each trial, the task will not test the ability to withhold a response tendency, but will instead contrast conditions in which a response is made (Go trials) with conditions in which no response is ever initiated (No-Go trials). Thus, equiprobable presentation of Go and No-Go trials, and excessively slow presentation, both pose a threat to the Go/No-Go task's validity.

How the Go/No-Go Task Could be Used Better

Studies with the Go/No-Go Task need to be extremely carefully designed to ensure that inhibitory control is actually necessary to perform the No-Go trials within the respective tasks. If that is not the case, any differential effects that No-Go trials have in the context of such studies cannot be interpreted as effects of inhibitory control activity. It is recommended that trial durations should be shorter than 1,500 ms with a No-Go trial proportion of less than 20%.

Source: Wessel, J. R. (2017). Prepotent motor activity and inhibitory control demands in different variants of the Go/No-go paradigm. Psychophysiology. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12871

All contents CC-BY Malte Elson (2016-2017), Ruhr University Bochum; malte(dot)elson(at)rub(dot)de; @maltoesermalte