Purpose: This study investigated inference construction within spoken narratives in adolescents with varying cognitive and language abilities, using W. Kintsch’s (1988) construction-integration model as a framework. The role of working memory in inference construction was examined along with language and nonverbal cognition.
Method: Participants were 527 eighth-grade students in 4 diagnostic groups: normal language (NL), low cognitive (LC), specific language impairment (SLI), and nonspecific language impariment (NLI). Participants answered premise and inference questions based on adjacent and distant information.
Results: Distant inferences were significantly more difficult than were adjacent inferences. When controlling for premise accuracy, the NL group performed significantly better than each of the other groups on distant inferences. The LC group demonstrated significantly higher accuracy on distant inferences than did the NLI group. Regression analyses revealed that performance on a verbal working memory measure predicted unique variance in distant inference accuracy beyond that accounted for by measures of language and nonverbal cognition.
Conclusions: Understanding implicit information, particularly when linking distant information, is difficult for adolescents who are deficient in language comprehension, verbal working memory skills, and/or general world knowledge.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/courtney_karasinski/3/