The present paper, including two experimental studies, explored whether the underlying mechanism of working memory (WM) supporting lexical disambiguation is a general (activation or inhibition) or a specific cognitive resource (involved only in interpretive processes). Regarding general WM resources, we also investigated whether the implied cognitive resources are activating or inhibitory in nature. The aim of the present paper is to test the predictions of the three above mentioned hypotheses in the context of age differences using an experimental paradigm proposed by Miyake, Carpenter, and Just (1994). The obtained results excluded the possibility that there are specific WM resources specifically allocated to lexical disambiguation (considered as an interpretive process). The obtained data confirm the implication of a general activation mechanism, and explain the observed age differences in lexical disambiguation due to the decline of the activation mechanism. However, the nature of this mechanism is still not clear; it can be a general activating attention mechanism of the central executive or a mechanism of short term maintenance (such as phonological buffer processes).
KEYWORDS: lexical disambiguation, working memory, cognitive inhibition, aging.