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Working memory and reading comprehension: The relationship between central executive functioning and discourse-level reading ability

Taylor, Jaimée (2017) Working memory and reading comprehension: The relationship between central executive functioning and discourse-level reading ability. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Research has repeatedly demonstrated that a relationship exists between reading comprehension and working memory (WM). However, there are inconsistencies in the literature regarding which executive functions (EFs) of WM contribute to overall reading comprehension ability. This study attempted to address why these inconsistencies exist by investigating to what extent the ability to manipulate, integrate, and update information quickly and efficiently was related to adults’ overall reading comprehension. Fifty-one participants, aged between 18 and 56 years without any cognitive impairments, completed a standardised reading comprehension assessment and a novel computer-based task which assessed propositional-level and discourse-level reading comprehension, respectively. Additionally, participants completed a cognition battery which assessed WM, inhibitory and attentional control, attention, cognitive flexibility and episodic memory. The findings indicated that context (i.e., low, medium and high) had a significant effect on discourse-level reading comprehension ability. This was accompanied by a significant relationship between WM, its central EFs and adults’ propositional-level reading comprehension. Unexpectedly, WM and the EFs did not significantly account for individual differences in discourse-level ability comprehension performance. Moreover, inhibition and attention negatively predicted participants’ discourse-level reading comprehension ability. Sound understanding of the relationship between WM and its central EFs has important practical implications for developing training programs aiming to improve children and adult’s executive skills and academic performance.

Key words: working memory (WM), executive functions (EFs), situation model construction, adults, propositional-level reading comprehension, discourse-level reading comprehension.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Gouldthorp, Bethanie
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