Psychological Reports, 1977,41, 474.
@ Psychological Reports 1977
CONSTRUCTIVE MEMORY OF NORMAL AND LEARNING DISABLED CHILDREN RICHARD S. PRAWAT AND HERMAN JONES Oklahoma State Universijy
ANTHONY CANCELLI University o f Arizona
A linguistic task recently adapted by Paris for use with children has proved useful for examining basic linguistic processes in exceptional children ( 2 ) . The task, referred to as a "constructive memory" cask, apparently taps a process in sentence comprehension and retrieval, namely, chat of inferring relations among sentences ( 1 ) . With this paradigm, it has been shown that subjects presented with three-sentence stories like the following, ' T h e bird is inside the cage. The cage is under the table. The bird is yellow," tend later to report incorrectly having heard a true inference-"The bird is under the tableu-thus making constructive memory errors. This task was used to examine the sentence-comprehension process of learning disabled children. Ten children, randomly selected, ac kindergarten, second, and fourth grades were the normal subjects. Ten learning disabled children from each of these grade levels, who attended a special program at a child guidance clinic three mornings a week, were the comparison group. Five three-sentence stories were read individually to subjects. Following story acquisition, four different sentences were presented for recognition ( a true and a false "premise" sentence, dealing with fact, and a true and a false inference sentence). The percentage of errors across five stories on each of the four types of sentences showed younger children made significantly more memory errors than older ones ( F = 74.08, p .01) and far more errors were made on true inference items than on the others ( F = 77.21, p .01)? N o main effect or interaction involving groups reached significance. Apparently the learning disabled children were as adept as the normals in storing and retrieving meaning from sentences. Results indicated neither a general memory deficit for verbally presented material nor a specific inability to construct and retrieve meaning across sentences. The pattern of constructive errors of memory across age levels did differ somewhat for the two groups. Normals evidenced a significantly higher percentage of constructive memory errors than learning disabled children at the youngest level ( p < .05). This provides some support for the "developmental lag" hypothesis; however, this finding must be carefully interpreted because age and group did not interact significantly. Perhaps efforts which attempt to define narrowly the learning disabled child's learning deficit may prove furile because of the ill-defined nature of the diagnostic category.