[PS-1.2] Thematic Knowledge Organization in Typically Developed Readers and Poor Comprehenders

Schmitterer, A. & Brod, G.

DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education

Thematic knowledge is the knowledge about the co-occurrence of concepts (i.e., Tiger/Zoo). Poor comprehenders and typically developed readers have been found to differ in their sensitivity to different types of semantic relations (i.e., thematic vs. categorical). To uncover cognitive processes underlying these differences, we studied the organization of thematic relations in both groups.

To this end, forty-eight German-speaking children (28 poor comprehenders) performed a category construction task in which different levels of co-occurrence strength between a target and two test words were contrasted. The target word (i.e., lightning) was embedded in a context sentence (i.e., Miriam sees the lightning.) and presented first. Then, two words were presented that varied in relation strength to the target word (i.e., strong-weak: thunder/fire; strong-distant: thunder/letter; weak-distant: fire/letter). For each pair, children decided which word would fit better to the sentence.

Results showed that both groups were more likely to pick a stronger related word but poor comprehenders did so significantly less often. This effect was stronger in the strong-distant and the strong-weak than in the weak-distant condition. These findings indicate that poor comprehenders? knowledge organization differs particularly for relations close to the center of the thematic network.