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Processing of positive-causal and negative-causal coherence relations in primary school children and adults: a test of the cumulative cognitive complexity approach in German*

  • JULIA KNOEPKE (a1), TOBIAS RICHTER (a1), MAJ-BRITT ISBERNER (a1), JOHANNES NAUMANN (a2), YVONNE NEEB (a3) and SABINE WEINERT (a4)...
Abstract

Establishing local coherence relations is central to text comprehension. Positive-causal coherence relations link a cause and its consequence, whereas negative-causal coherence relations add a contrastive meaning (negation) to the causal link. According to the cumulative cognitive complexity approach, negative-causal coherence relations are cognitively more complex than positive-causal ones. Therefore, they require greater cognitive effort during text comprehension and are acquired later in language development. The present cross-sectional study tested these predictions for German primary school children from Grades 1 to 4 and adults in reading and listening comprehension. Accuracy data in a semantic verification task support the predictions of the cumulative cognitive complexity approach. Negative-causal coherence relations are cognitively more demanding than positive-causal ones. Moreover, our findings indicate that children's comprehension of negative-causal coherence relations continues to develop throughout the course of primary school. Findings are discussed with respect to the generalizability of the cumulative cognitive complexity approach to German.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Julia Knoepke, University of Kassel, Department of Psychology, Holländische Straße 36–38, 34127 Kassel, Germany. tel: +49 (0) 561 804-7166; fax: +49 (0) 561 804-3586; e-mail: julia.knoepke@uni-kassel.de
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The research presented in this paper was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF, grants 01 GJ 0985, 01 GJ 0986, 01 GJ 1206A, 01 GJ 1206B). We would like to thank David Nitz for programming assistance and the numerous student research assistants who were involved in collecting data for this project. Researchers who are interested in the material used in the visual and auditory semantic verification tasks are invited to send an e-mail to the first or the second author.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
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