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The effects of topic title on language comprehension and working memory resources Makaroff, Amy


This study was designed to explore the effects of topic title and simulated high frequency hearing loss on language comprehension by normal, healthy adults. Thirty-two adult participants with no history of cognitive deficits participated in this study. Each participant listened to four different passages in four different conditions. The four conditions were: (1) title with normal hearing, (2) title with simulated high frequency hearing loss, (3) no title with normal hearing and (4) no title with simulated high frequency hearing loss. Passages were presented segment-by-segment using the auditory moving window technique; most segments were short sentences or clauses. Participants listened to each segment at their own pace by pressing a key. Pause times between segments and overall listening time were recorded for each passage. After listening to each passage, participants were asked to recall out loud what they understood and remembered from the passage. Recall was transcribed and percentages of recalled propositions were calculated. In order to observe changes in processing across a passage, mean pause duration values were also compared across passage position (beginning, middle and end of a passage). The results showed that topic titles facilitated listening comprehension, as shown through better recall performance and reduced processing time. The knowledge of topic titles also reduced the time required for processing information at the beginning of the passage, showing that the knowledge of topic titles facilitates the building of mental representations. The simulated high frequency hearing loss condition did not prove to consistently tax working memory resources during language comprehension. The findings also provided evidence about the relationship between working memory ability and recall performance. Overall, these findings are consistent with the predictions of current language comprehension models.

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