Comprehension Skill, Inference-Making Ability, and Their Relation to Knowledge


The authors investigated the relation between young children’s comprehension skill and inference-making ability using a procedure that controlled individual differences in general knowledge (Barnes & Dennis, 1998; Barnes, Dennis, & Haefele-Kalvaitis, 1996). A multiepisode story was read to the children, and their ability to make two types of inference was assessed: coherence inferences, which were essential for adequate comprehension of the text, and elaborative inferences, which enhanced the text representation but which were not crucial to understanding. There was a strong relation between comprehension skill and inference-making ability even when knowledge was equally available to all participants. Subsidiary analyses of the source of inference failures revealed different underlying sources of difficulty for good and poor comprehenders.


Cain, K., Oakhill, J., Barnes, M. A., & Bryant, P. (2001). Comprehension skill, inference making ability and their relation to knowledge. Memory & Cognition, 29(6), 850–859.