Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology


The constructs of working memory and inhibition have been intimately linked in a number of cognitive theories. However, the exact nature of this relationship remains unclear. Roberts and Pennington (1996) proposed a framework in which the successful inhibition of prepotent responses is a function of the strength of the prepotency, the working memory resources available to an individual and the working memory demands of the task. The prediction made from this framework is that increasing the working memory demands of a task will compromise working memory performance and decrease the ability to inhibit competing responses. This prediction was examined in the Stroop, flanker, and n-back paradigms by manipulating the working memory load of each task, and examining the effect on the inhibitory processes involved in the interference and negative priming effects. In contrast to predictions, the interference and negative priming effects were unaffected by the introduction of a memory load, increasing the number of items in memory, maintaining a preload of memory items, or by actively maintaining and updating increasing numbers of items in working memory. However, the negative priming effect was eliminated when the working memory load involved a switch of attention away from the selective attention task. It was argued that an interaction between working memory and inhibition will only become apparent when the limited resources of the central executive are required. The implications of these results for models of working memory and selective attention are discussed.