Backward inhibition

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In experimental psychology, backward inhibition is a theory of sequential task control that asserts switching between tasks requires the just-completed task to be suppressed to allow a new task to be completed. Support from the theory comes from research which has observed larger response times when returning to a task after an intermediate task than when completing three, or more, different tasks in a row.

For example, for tasks A, B, and C, the response times for the third task will be slower in the case of an A-B-A sequence than a C-B-A sequence. In a series of experiments it was shown that this inhibitory process is not the result of priming (Mayr & Keele, 2000).


  • Mayr, U., & Keele, S. W. (2000). Changing internal constraints on action: The role of backward inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 4-26.