Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

There is an unexplained psychological reason that causes one not to be able to do some random activities (for instance, not being able to eat several days because one's mouth just won't open to take in food or they can not go out to ride a bike because, as much as they want to, it's like their body refuses them to dress and step outside).

There are more examples how the problem occurs but I really want to know what is the psychological reason behind it (I know it isn't anxiety). The problem occurs at random times and against random activities that are a part of one's everyday life.

Also I'm intrested in whether or not an inihbition can be psychologically created by choice against some bad habits (for example it could be the saviour of the people who are trying to quit smoking if, however bad they want to smoke, their hands just won't take a cigarette).

share|improve this question
hey! thanks for helping me :) hope to make myself useful here soon :) – Keira Aug 21 '13 at 14:44
Not being able to open the mouth can have an organic reason: either the musculature is "tired", e.g. after holding the mouth open for a long time as during an oral operation, or the articular disc in the temporomandibular joint has sprung out. These are called temporomandibular disorders. – what Aug 21 '13 at 22:55
And the usual warning: If this is a problem you or someone you know has, I would recommend seeing a medical or psychological professional and not attempt a remote or self-diagnosis. – what Aug 21 '13 at 22:56
Excellent question, I think this also applies to a lot of activities, from participating in sports to online Q&A sites. – user3554 Aug 23 '13 at 22:46

There is an answer to the first part of your question here: What causes behavioural inhibition?

I am answering this part of your question:
I'm interested in whether or not an inhibition can be psychologically created by choice against some bad habits (for example it could be the saviour of the people who are trying to quit smoking if, however bad they want to smoke, their hands just won't take a cigarette).

To induce inhibitory behaviour requires the use of negative reinforcement. To avoid punishment, or discomfort, an individual will learn to avoid a particular behaviour.

In the case of addiction (as mentioned in your example with cigarettes), the issue is: Creating a negative reinforcement that causes greater discomfort (referred to as negative affect in the article below) when using the drug, as opposed to the discomfort that results from abstinence.
The same can be drawn for behaviour payoffs. If a certain behaviour alleviates for example, anxiety, then the discomfort of the negative enforcement will need to be greater than the anxiety the individual is avoiding.
As one can imagine, it is not always easy to create a humane punishment that creates a discomfort greater than the what the individual seeks to avoid.

This article offers a reformulation of the negative reinforcement model of drug addiction and proposes that the escape and avoidance of negative affect is the prepotent motive for addictive drug use. The authors posit that negative affect is the motivational core of the withdrawal syndrome and argue that, through repeated cycles of drug use and withdrawal, addicted organisms learn to detect interoceptive cues of negative affect preconsciously. Thus, the motivational basis of much drug use is opaque and tends not to reflect cognitive control. When either stressors or abstinence causes negative affect to grow and enter consciousness, increasing negative affect biases information processing in ways that promote renewed drug administration. After explicating their model, the authors address previous critiques of negative reinforcement models in light of their reformulation and review predictions generated by their model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved) 1

1 Addiction Motivation Reformulated: An Affective Processing Model of Negative Reinforcement. Baker, Timothy B.; Piper, Megan E.; McCarthy, Danielle E.; Majeskie, Matthew R.; Fiore, Michael C. Psychological Review, Vol 111(1), Jan 2004, 33-51. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.111.1.33

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.