The effect of working memory, sustained attention, and verbal abilities on explanation-based inference making in expository text

The effect of working memory, sustained attention, and verbal abilities on explanation-based inference making in expository text

First Author: Juan Pablo Barreyro -- University of Buenos Aires
Additional authors/chairs: 
Irene Injoque-Ricle; Jesica Formoso; Debora Burín
Abstract / Summary: 

The aim of this work was to analyze the relationship of working memory, sustained attention, and verbal aptitude with the ability to generate explanation-based inferences in expository texts through a structural equation model, based on the hypothesis that working memory, sustained attention, and verbal ability are involved in the generation of inferences. For this purpose, 171 undergraduate read two expository texts and answered a questionnaire about inferences from the texts, and completed two retention working memory tasks (digit and word span), two executive working memory tasks (running span and letter-number sequencing), one sustained attention tasks (symbol search), and one verbal aptitude test (verbal reasoning). The results indicate that explanation-based inferences are directly explained by verbal aptitude (β=.24, p<.01), as well as the executive component of verbal work memory (β=.45, p<.05). Likewise, these inferences are also indirectly explained - via the executive component of working memory - by the ability to sustain attention (β=.19, p<.05) to a given task and the capacity to store verbal information in working memory (β=.39, p<.05). Results suggest that the ability to reactivate information presented previously in the text in order to maintain sufficient causal justification for the statement that the participant is reading (explanation-based inference) is strongly related to their verbal aptitude and their capacity to process information in working memory. In turn, the ability to sustain attention and retain verbal information in working memory is related to the ability to generate inferences, mediated by the executive component of working memory.