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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1991 Mar;17(2):245-62.

The mechanism of suppression: a component of general comprehension skill.

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Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403-1227.


We investigated whether the cognitive mechanism of suppression underlies differences in adult comprehension skill. Less skilled comprehenders reject less efficiently the inappropriate meanings of ambiguous words (e.g., the playing card vs. garden tool meaning of spade), the incorrect forms of homophones (e.g., patients vs. patience), the highly typical but absent members of scenes (e.g., a tractor in a farm scene), and words superimposed on pictures or pictures surrounding words. However, less skilled comprehenders are not less cognizant of what is contextually appropriate; in fact, they benefit from a biasing context just as much (and perhaps more) as more skilled comprehenders do. Thus, less skilled comprehenders do not have difficulty enhancing contextually appropriate information. Instead, we suggest that less skilled comprehenders suffer from a less efficient suppression mechanism, which we conclude is an important component of general comprehension skill.

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