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This study examined three processes crucial to reading comprehension (semantic access, integration, and inhibition) to identify causes of comprehension impairment. Poor comprehenders were compared to chronological-age controls and vocabulary-age (VA) controls. When listening to homonym primes ("bank") versus unrelated primes, controls were faster to name pictures related to dominant (money) and subordinate (river) meanings at 250 ms interstimulus interval (ISI) but only showed dominant priming at 1,000 ms ISI, whereas poor comprehenders only showed dominant priming. When listening to subordinately biased sentences ending in homonyms ("John fished from the bank") versus control sentences, all groups showed priming when naming subordinate (appropriate) pictures at 250 ms ISI: VA controls and poor comprehenders also showed priming when naming dominant (inappropriate) pictures. At 1,000 ms ISI, controls showed appropriate priming, whereas poor comprehenders only showed inappropriate priming. These findings suggest that poor comprehenders have difficulties accessing subordinate word meanings, which can manifest as a failure to inhibit irrelevant information. © 2013 Copyright 2013 Society for the Scientific Study of Reading.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific Studies of Reading

Publication Date





177 - 198