Thursday, March 01, 2007

Reading Between the Lines & Working Memory

Children who struggle with inference, or "reading-between-the-lines" may mistakenly be labeled as having an autism spectrum disorder - but because inference requires many different thinking steps, there are many reasons the process can get blocked.

This study found that both sides of the brain are required for inference; the right hemisphere beats the left to the punch, but the left hemisphere also has it's part recognizing the break in the story.

An additional interesting feature of this study is that researchers also looked at the effect of working memory on inference. Individuals blessed with a high working memory (ability to keep information in mind as it's applied to tasks) were better at inference - that makes sense, because some of the low working memory subjects may have been overloaded by story details.

This is especially important to remember because kids (or adults for that matter) who don't "get it" may not have anything wrong with their higher order thinking or inferencing ability - they just may need to take it down in text or listen in short bits in order to process all the information. Children (and adults) with working memory problems are often underestimated in terms of their ability or misdiagnosed as having ADD - because they may appear forgetful and easily overwhelmed...but the funny thing is, they may have terrific long term memories. So they may know an awful lot, but be natural autodidacts, or learners who have to learn it their own way.

Inference, Story Comprehension, and fMRI pdf
Eide NL Blog: Visual Learning / Avoid Failure First Grade
Eide NL Blog: Working Memory & The Classroom
Eide NL Blog: Efficacy of Working Memory Training for ADHD

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