This study measures the effect of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and normal aging on the inhibition of prepotent responses. AD patients, normal aged controls, and young subjects were tested with the Hayling task, which measures the ability to inhibit a semantically constrained response, and with the Stroop procedure. AD patients showed a severe deficit in both error rates and response time on the Hayling task. Inhibition was also impaired on the Stroop procedure, both when using raw performance and when using an inhibition score that controlled for reading and naming speed. Normal aged participants showed modest impairment relative to young controls on both tests. Examination of individual performance in AD patients indicated that the impairment was found in most patients on the Hayling test but in only a subgroup of patients on the Stroop test.