Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Greg Simpson

Second Advisor

Kenneth Deffenbacher

Third Advisor

Shelton Hendricks


This study addressed the controversy surrounding the locus of the inferential process (encoding vs. retrieval) in story comprehension by adopting a developmental perspective. Second, fifth, and eighth grade children, and college undergraduates, read eight stories from which two types of inferences could be drawn. Bridging inferences are inferences critical to the comprehension of a story while forward inferences are not. Eight questions (four inference and four filler) were answered to each story, and the dependent variables of reaction time and error rate were measured. The hypothesis that bridging inferences would be drawn at encoding was clearly supported as was the corollary that forward inferences would not be drawn until retrieval. Additionally, the hypothesis that second grade children would successfully draw the bridging inferences was supported, contradicting much previous research. Errors reached asymptotic level at the fifth grade while reaction time decreased until the eighth grade, after which there were no significant differences. Bridging inference questions were answered faster and more accurately than forward inference questions, at all grade levels.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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