The role of inhibition and speed of processing in mathematics

Sarit Ashkenazi*, Iris Y. Blum-Cahana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study highlights the importance of inhibitory ability in facilitating performance in mathematics. To understand the role of inhibition in mathematical knowledge, this study tested 102 college students on a series of standardized complex math exercises. Inhibition tasks varied by task and stimuli (letters, numbers, and arrows). The result showed stronger associations between math abilities and strength of inhibition with more inhibition found for the flanker task (involving inhibition of peripheral stimuli) than for the Navon task (requiring inhibition of a potential response). The results supported the view that Inhibition in general (which is not unique to numerical stimuli) is associated with math abilities. General, rather than specific inhibition was associated with math abilities and finally, speed of processing masked the relationship between math and inhibition. These results confirm the assumption that the relation between inhibition and math performance is modulated by the task that measures the inhibition, and by additional predictors such as processing speed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Applied Cognitive Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • general inhibition
  • math abilities
  • numerical specific inhibition
  • procedural knowledge
  • speed of processing


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