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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between specific language variables and mental ability in the treatment of information by adults Hampson, Eric


The main focus of this research was to determine the functional relationship that exists when mental ability and language competence are separately and simultaneously measured with regard to their influence on the effective treatment of verbal information. The subject sample comprised 100 men and women, aged 20-60 years, who were chosen to be representative of the employable population of the Greater Vancouver area. The assessment of language in these subjects included skill in .syntax, exemplified by verb-form competence, the variety of clausal structures employed, and the presence of other modifying devices common to adult language. The procedures for assessing these competencies were originally developed by the author from raw data supplied by Koopman (1985). Comprehension was measured by means of a standard reading comprehension test, which comprised a series of graded paragraphs. Multiple-choice questions were posed on specific information regarding the characters and events, inferences and implications of the content, and recall of the actions and settings presented in the paragraphs. Intelligence was measured by a non-verbal intelligence test, which called for the identification of geometrical patterns and learned skills in matching, analogies, classifications, intersections, and progressions. Skill in processing verbal information was assessed from the subjects' written productions. Six controversial topics were presented to the subjects by means of questions and related collages. The subjects were asked to present, in writing, a solution to one of the issues. The time suggested for this task was approximately fifteen minutes. The compositions were scored for quality of argument and maturity of judgment. All scores were analyzed by regression and multiple regression procedures. Demographic data were investigated by canonical correlation analysis. The main finding of this present research was that skill in syntax is the major component in English composition, particularly in exercises which call for critical analysis and the making of sound judgments. This finding suggests that the assessment procedures used in this research may be a feasible means of judging the quality of adults' written language. The results also indicated that skill in the use of language is of greater significance than is mental ability in the treatment of verbal information. The demographic variables of the subjects do not serve to differentiate between high and low performance in language in any reliable way, although level of education has some bearing on ability in language and category of occupation among the middle and upper age-groups. Finally, practical application of these assessment procedures in education and suggestions for further research directly concerned with this study and with issues in related fields are discussed.

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