Memory & Cognition

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1042–1050 | Cite as

The effect of memory load on negative priming: An individual differences investigation

  • Andrew R. A. ConwayEmail author
  • Stephen W. Tuholski
  • Rebecca J. Shisler
  • Randall W. Engle


Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia The effect of a verbal (Experiment 1) and a nonverbal (Experiment 2) memory load on negative priming was investigated by employing a concurrent memory task with a letter naming task. Across both experiments, negative priming was reliable only under conditions of zero memory load, suggesting that the processes that contribute to negative priming are resource demanding and dependent on a domainfree resource pool. Individual differences in negative priming were observed, such that high working memory capacity subjects showed reliable negative priming whereas low working memory capacity subjects did not. The results suggest that the negative priming effect results from allocation of controlled attention and that individual differences in working memory capacity correspond to the ability to efficiently handle irrelevant information.


Trial Type Journal ofExperimental Psychology Work Memory Capacity Memory Load Negative Priming 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beech, A., Powell, T., McWilliam, J., &Claridge, G. (1989). Evidence of reduced “cognitive inhibition” in schizophrenia.British Journal of Psychology,28, 110–116.Google Scholar
  2. Cantor, J., &Engle, R. W. (1993). Working memory capacity as longterm memory activation: An individual differences approach.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,5, 1101–1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Case, R., Kurland, M. D., &Goldberg, J. (1982). Operational efficiency and the growth of short-term memory span.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,33, 386–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, J. D., &Servan-Schreiber, D. (1992). Context, cortex, and dopamine: A connectionist approach to behavior and biology in schizophrenia.Psychological Review,99, 45–77.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Conway, A. R. A., &Engle, R. W. (1994). Working memory and retrieval: A resource-dependent inhibition model.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,123, 354–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dalrymple-Alford, E. C., &Budayr, B. (1966). Examination of some aspects of the Stroop colour-word test.Perceptual & Motor Skills,23, 1211–1214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Daneman, M., &Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,19, 450–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dempster, F. N. (1992). The rise and fall of the inhibitory mechanism: Toward a unified theory of cognitive development and aging.Developmental Review,12, 45–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Engle, R. W., Cantor, J., &Carullo, J. J. (1992). Individual differences in working memory and comprehension: A test of four hypotheses.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,18, 972–992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Engle, R. W., Conway, A. R. A., Tuholski, S. W., &Shisler, R. J. (1995). A resource account of inhibition.Psychological Science,6, 122–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engle, R. W., Tuholski, S. W., Laughlin, J. E., &Conway, A. R. A. (1999). Working memory, short-term memory, and general fluid intelligence: A latent variable approach.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,128, 309–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fox, E. (1995). Negative priming from ignored distractors in visual selection: A review.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,2, 145–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenwald, A. G. (1972). Evidence of both perceptual filtering and response suppression for rejected messages in selective attention.Journal of Experimental Psychology,94, 58–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hasher, L., Stoltzfus, E. R., Zacks, R. T., &Rypma, B. (1991). Age and inhibition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,17, 163–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hasher, L., &Zacks, R. T. (1988). Working memory, comprehension, and aging: A review and a new view. In G. H. Bower (Ed.),The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 22, pp. 193–225). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  16. Houghton, G., &Tipper, S. P. (1994). A model of inhibitory mechanisms in selective attention. In D. Dagenbach & T. H. Carr (Eds.),Inhibitory processes in attention, memory, and language (pp. 53–112). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kane, M. J., & Engle, R. W. (1997).Working memory, divided attention and interference. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  18. Kane, M. J., May, C. P., Hasher, L., Rahhal, T., &Stoltzfus, E. R. (1997). Dual mechanisms of negative priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,23, 632–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. LaPointe, L. B., &Engle, R. W. (1990). Simple and complex word spans as measures of working memory capacity.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,16, 1118–1133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Logan, G. D. (1988). Toward an instance theory of automatization.Psychological Review,95, 492–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. May, C. P., Kane, M. J., &Hasher, L. (1995). Determinants of negative priming.Psychological Bulletin,188, 35–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Milliken, B., Joordens, S., Merikle, P., &Seiffert, A. (1998). Selective attention: A re-evaluation of the implications of negative priming.Psychological Review,105, 203–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nakagawa, A. (1991). Role of anterior and posterior attention networks in hemispheric asymmetries during lexical decisions.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,3, 313–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Neill, W. T. (1977). Inhibitory and facilitatory processes in selective attention.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,3, 444–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neill, W. T. (1997). Episodic retrieval in negative priming and repetition priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,23, 1291–1305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Neill, W. T., &Valdes, L. A. (1992). Persistence of negative priming: Steady state or decay?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,18, 565–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Neill, W. T., Valdes, L. A., Terry, K. M., &Gorfein, D. S. (1992). Persistence of negative priming: II. Evidence for episodic trace retrieval.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,18, 993–1000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Roberts, R. J., Hager, L. D., &Heron, C. (1994). Prefrontal cognitive processes: Working memory and inhibition in the antisaccade task.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,123, 374–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rosen, V. M., &Engle, R. W. (1997). The role of working memory capacity in retrieval.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,126, 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schneider, W. (1988). Micro Experimental Laboratory: An integrated system for IBM PC compatibles.Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers,20, 206–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Simone, P. M., &Baylis, G. C. (1997). Selective attention in a reaching task: Effect of normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,23, 595–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sullivan, M. P., Faust, M. E., &Balota, D. A. (1995). Identity negative priming in older adults and individuals with dementia of the Alzheimer type.Neuropsychology,9, 537–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tipper, S. P. (1985). The negative priming effect: Inhibitory priming by ignored objects.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,37A, 571–590.Google Scholar
  34. Tipper, S. P., Bourque, T. A., Anderson, S. H., &Brehaut, J. C. (1989). Mechanisms of attention: A developmental study.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,48, 353–378.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tuholski, S. W. (1994).Individual differences in the fan effect: The effect of interference. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, Columbia.Google Scholar
  36. Turner, M. L., &Engle, R. W. (1989). Is working memory capacity task dependent?Journal of Memory & Language,28, 127–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew R. A. Conway
    • 4
    Email author
  • Stephen W. Tuholski
    • 1
  • Rebecca J. Shisler
    • 2
  • Randall W. Engle
    • 3
  1. 1.Southern Illinois UniversityEdwardsville
  2. 2.University of South CarolinaColumbia
  3. 3.Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlanta
  4. 4.Department of Psychology (M/C 285)University of IllinoisChicago

Personalised recommendations