The role of working memory in inferential sentence comprehension
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- Pérez, A.I., Paolieri, D., Macizo, P. et al. Cogn Process (2014) 15: 405. doi:10.1007/s10339-014-0611-7
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Existing literature on inference making is large and varied. Trabasso and Magliano (Discourse Process 21(3):255–287, 1996) proposed the existence of three types of inferences: explicative, associative and predictive. In addition, the authors suggested that these inferences were related to working memory (WM). In the present experiment, we investigated whether WM capacity plays a role in our ability to answer comprehension sentences that require text information based on these types of inferences. Participants with high and low WM span read two narratives with four paragraphs each. After each paragraph was read, they were presented with four true/false comprehension sentences. One required verbatim information and the other three implied explicative, associative and predictive inferential information. Results demonstrated that only the explicative and predictive comprehension sentences required WM: participants with high verbal WM were more accurate in giving explanations and also faster at making predictions relative to participants with low verbal WM span; in contrast, no WM differences were found in the associative comprehension sentences. These results are interpreted in terms of the causal nature underlying these types of inferences.