Working Memory and Inference Revision in Brain-Damaged and Normally Aging Adults 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 & Carpenter, 1992, Psychological Review, 99, 122–149), which includes as a major feature the principle that WM ... Research Article
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Research Article  |   August 01, 1994
Working Memory and Inference Revision in Brain-Damaged and Normally Aging Adults
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Connie A. Tompkins
    Department of Communication Division of Communication Science and Disorders and University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Cynthia G. R. Bloise
    Department of Communication Division of Communication Science and Disorders and University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Maura L. Timko
    Department of Communication Division of Communication Science and Disorders and University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Annette Baumgaertner
    Department of Communication Division of Communication Science and Disorders and University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Contact author: Connie A. Tompkins, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Division of Communication Science and Disorders, 3347 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. E-mail: Tompkins@vms.cis.pitt.edu.
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1994
Working Memory and Inference Revision in Brain-Damaged and Normally Aging Adults
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1994, Vol. 37, 896-912. doi:10.1044/jshr.3704.896
History: Received July 6, 1993 , Accepted February 21, 1994
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1994, Vol. 37, 896-912. doi:10.1044/jshr.3704.896
History: Received July 6, 1993; Accepted February 21, 1994

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 & 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.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by grant # DC00453 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, awarded to CAT. We greatly appreciate the cooperation of Harmarville Rehabilitation Center, the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Presbyterian-University Hospital. Hiram Brownell graciously provided his stimulus materials, and Kristie Spencer, Richard Boada, Jennifer Jones, and Kathrine McGarry also provided valuable assistance.
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