Working memory and inference revision in brain-damaged and normally aging adults

C. A. Tompkins*, C. G.R. Bloise, M. L. Timko, A. Baumgaertner

*Corresponding author for this work
163 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the association between estimated working memory (WM) capacity and comprehension of passages that required revision of an initial interpretation. Predictions stemmed from the recently elaborated theory of capacity-constrained comprehension (Just and Carpenter, 1992, Psychological Review, 99, 122-149), which includes as a major feature the principle that WM influences comprehension only as processing demands approach or exceed the limits of capacity. As anticipated from task analysis, correlations between unilaterally brain-damaged patients' estimated WM capacity and discourse comprehension performance were minimal for nondemanding measures, and increased in magnitude with task processing requirements. Most notably, a meaningful correlation (/r/ greater than .50) emerged only for the task judged to involve the most demanding comprehension processes, for adults with right hemisphere brain damage. No meaningful associations between estimated WM capacity and task performance were observed for normally aging subjects, who were not expected to have difficulty with any of our comprehension measures. The nature of WM deficits in brain-damaged adults (total capacity, vs. resource allocation, vs. slow or otherwise faulty component processing operations) is considered, and some existing work is interpreted from a cognitive resource perspective. Theoretical implications and clinical applicability of the working memory/resource framework are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Speech and Hearing Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)896-912
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1994

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience

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