Assessing the occurrence of elaborative inferences: Lexical decision versus naming

George R. Potts, Janice M. Keenan, Jonathan M. Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


This research extends previous attempts (e.g., G. McKoon & R. Ratcliff, 1986, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 12, 82-91; M. Singer & F. Ferreira, 1983, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 22, 437-448) to determine whether subjects infer highly likely consequences of an event while reading. For example, if subjects read about someone falling off a 14th story roof, will they infer that the person died? The present experiments differ from previous research in that they use procedures-lexical decision and word naming-which we feel permit a clearer assessment of whether the inference occurred at encoding, they directly compare the effects of requiring versus not requiring the inference for coherence in the absence of the usual confounds with semantic relatedness, and they examine the effects that disconfirming evidence has on the activation level of the inferred concept. The lexical decision task appeared to indicate that subjects do, indeed, infer the likely consequences of events while reading. However, the naming task suggested that such inferences were not drawn. We conclude that such inferences are not drawn while reading and that the lexical decision results, as well as previous results using a recognition task, reflect context checking that occurs at the time of the test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-415
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1988

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant BNS-8409272 to George Potts. We thank Kevin Ellis for his help in developing the materials used in this research and for his help running subjects in Experiment 1, and Tracy Jennings for help in setting up and running Experiments 3 and 4. We thank Mark St. John, Murray Singer, and Steven Greenspan for their comments on early versions of this paper, and Gail McKoon and Roger Rat-cliff for their comments on this work and for providing us with copies of their materials. Requests for reprints should be sent to George Potts, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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