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Hasher, L., Zacks, R. T., & May, C. P. (1999). Inhibitory control, circadian arousal, and age. In D. Gopher & A. Koriat (Eds.), Attention and Performance XVII, Cognitive Regulation of Performance: Interaction of Theory and Application (pp. 653-675). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


The empirical work reported here is based on a model of cognitive control over the contents of working memory. Using a variety of tasks, we consider three major functions of inhibition: access, deletion, and restraint over strong thoughts and actions. The data suggest that inhibition affords control over the momentary contents of working memory. In particular, poor inhibitory control results in enriched or cluttered contents in working memory (that is time sharing between relevant and nonrelevant information), and in the inappropriate production of strong but incorrect responses. Reductions in inhibitory control can have consequences for a variety of cognitive processes including learning, retrieval, and comprehension. They can make a person highly distractible, forgetful, inappropriately absorbed in either thought or the external world and less able to satisfy personal goals. The data reviewed here suggest that reductions in inhibitory control are associated with aging and for both young and older adults, with performing tasks that require inhibitory control at an individuals nonoptimal time of day.

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