Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Special Education and Communication Disorders

First Advisor

Thomas Lorsbach

Second Advisor

Ellen Jacobs

Third Advisor

Elliott Ostler


Much of the research on age-related differences in the ability to inhibit irrelevant information in a given task has been on the study of younger and older adults. Only a minimal amount of research has focused on the developmental differences in children and young adults. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to examine whether age-related differences exist between children and young adults in processes consistent with inhibition.

Third-, sixth-grade children, and college undergraduates listened to twenty-four garden path passages containing either expected or unexpected, but acceptable, conclusions. The twenty-four passages were divided into four subsets, with each subset containing six passages. Each of the six passages within a given subset consisted of a judgment task that contained either ten or fourteen words, as appropriate for a mid-point or an end-point testing of a passage. Participants were instructed to decide (yes or no) whether each test word was consistent with his or her understanding of the passage. Finally, each subset of six passages ended with the testing of the inference questions that corresponded to passages contained in that subset.

Analyses revealed both groups of children to be less efficient than college students in the use of those attentional processes consistent with the inhibitory processes of selective attention that restrict access to and limit the maintenance of task-irrelevant information in working memory. Although children and adults showed equally strong tendencies to accept a target inference at the middle-test and end-test position, both groups of children were more likely than young adults to accept a competing, alternate interpretation of unexpected passages. The data reviewed here suggests developmental differences between children and young adults exist in the use of those processes required of inhibition that control the contents of working memory.


A thesis submitted to the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha