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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

By Julia Knoepke, Tobias Richter, Maj-Britt Isberner, Johannes Naumann, Yvonne Neeb and Sabine Weinert


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

Topics: ddc:370
Year: 2017
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