Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The efficiency of working memory processes has been studied by many researchers. Verbal ability and intoxication with ethanol are two hypothesized influences on the efficiency of working memory processes. This study looked at these factors across two measures, memory span tasks and memory scan tasks. This study also examined the extent to which verbal ability modulates the effect of alcohol on working memory performance.

Seventy-eight male subjects participated in the present study. Subjects who reported drinking at least two drinks on two separate occasions per week were invited to participate. Subjects were administered the WAIS-R Vocabulary subtest and categorized as high verbal or low verbal by a median split of the scores.

Subjects were given four memory span tasks. These included digit span forward, digit span backward, word span, and sentence span. Digit span forward and backward were administered as they are in the WAIS-R. Word span was similar to digit span with the exception that there were three trials at each level. Sentence span was that introduced by Daneman and Carpenter (1980). Subjects had to read a group of sentences aloud and remember the last word in each sentence.

Subjects received two memory scan tasks. The first required them to judge whether a probe word was one from a stimulus set. The second required them to judge whether a probe word was a member of the categories from the stimulus set. Subjects were tested over twelve sequences consisting of 32 trials per sequence, with three sequences each of set sizes of two, three, and four. One half of the judgements were positive and one half were negative.

Verbal ability was a significant factor in all span tasks. Alcohol was a significant factor only for digit span backward. Alcohol did not affect digit span forward, word span, or sentence span.

Task and set size were significant factors in the memory scan tasks. Verbal ability and alcohol intoxication were minimally related to the memory scan tasks. Support was found for the elaboration explanation of alcohol intoxication. No support was found for overall cognitive slowing.

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Psychology Commons