Effects of threat and sleep deprivation on action tendencies and response inhibition
SourceEmotion, 19, 8, (2019), pp. 1425-1436
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
SW OZ BSI AO
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment; Work, Health and Performance
The ability to control action is crucial for adaptive responding, but may be compromised in situations involving strong emotions (e.g., threat) or when people are deprived of resources (e.g., sleep). As compromised action control can have large consequences in threatening situations, for example when police officers face a potentially armed suspect, we experimentally investigated how acute threat and partial sleep deprivation affect the ability to control impulsive responses, in 52 healthy young adults performing a simulated shooting task. The results showed that acute threat increased the tendency to act quickly (i.e., reduced response times; b = 9.46, SE = 2.90, 95% CI [3.49, 15.29], p = .001) and impaired response inhibition (i.e., increased stop signal reaction times; b = -4.91, SE = 2.31, 95% CI [-9.47, -0.44], p = .035). In addition, 3 nights of partial sleep deprivation (5 hr [n = 28] vs. 8 hr [n = 24] of sleep), led to a significant decrease in overall response accuracy (b = -0.22, SE = 0.09, 95% CI [-0.40, -0.05], p = .025). Contrary to expectations, our results did not show increased threat sensitivity in sleep-deprived individuals (all p > .13). Nevertheless, they may have important implications for professionals who are required to maintain behavioral control under high levels of threat and who experience disturbed sleep due to for example, shift work, as both factors negatively affected performance.
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