Abstract: Investigating differences in general comprehension skill

GERNSBACHER, M. A. , & VARNER, K. R., & FAUST, M. (1990). Investigating differences in general comprehension skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 16, 430-445.

For adults, skill at comprehending written language correlates highly with skill at comprehending spoken language. Does this general comprehension skill extend beyond language-based modalities? And if it does, what cognitive processes and mechanisms individuals who are more versus less proficient in general comprehension skill? In our first experiment, we found that skill in comprehending written and auditory stories correlates highly with skill in comprehending nonverbal, picture stories. This finding supports the hypothesis that general comprehension skill extends beyond language. We also found support for the hypothesis that poorer access to recently comprehended information marks less proficient general comprehension skill (Experiment 2) because less skilled comprehenders develop too many mental substructures during comprehension (Experiment 3), perhaps because they inefficiently suppress irrelevant information (Experiment 4). Thus, the cognitive processes and mechanisms involved in capturing and representing the structure of comprehensible information provide one source of individual differences in general comprehension skill.