How does not responding to appetitive stimuli cause devaluation: Evaluative conditioning or response inhibition?

Zhang Chen*, Harm Veling, Ap Dijksterhuis, Rob W. Holland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


In a series of 6 experiments (5 preregistered), we examined how not responding to appetitive stimuli causes devaluation. To examine this question, a go/no-go task was employed in which appetitive stimuli were consistently associated with cues to respond (go stimuli), or with cues to not respond (either no-go cues or the absence of cues; no-go stimuli). Change in evaluations of no-go stimuli was compared to change in evaluations of both go stimuli and of stimuli not presented in the task (untrained stimuli). Experiments 1 to 3 show that not responding to appetitive stimuli in a go/no-go task causes devaluation of these stimuli regardless of the presence of an explicit no-go cue. Experiments 4a and 4b show that the devaluation effect of appetitive stimuli is contingent on the percentage of no-go trials; devaluation appears when no-go trials are rare, but disappears when no-go trials are frequent. Experiment 5 shows that simply observing the go/no-go task does not lead to devaluation. Experiment 6 shows that not responding to neutral stimuli does not cause devaluation. Together, these results suggest that devaluation of appetitive stimuli by not responding to them is the result of response inhibition. By employing both go stimuli and untrained stimuli as baselines, alternative explanations are ruled out, and apparent inconsistencies in the literature are resolved. These experiments provide new theoretical insight into the relation between not responding and evaluation, and can be applied to design motor response training procedures aimed at changing people's behavior toward appetitive stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1701
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Devaluation
  • Evaluation
  • Food
  • Go/no-go training
  • Response inhibition


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