The Effects of Knowledge Availability and Knowledge Accessibility on Coherence and Elaborative Inferencing in Children From Six to Fifteen Years of Age


Two experiments are presented in which a novel knowledge base was acquired by 6- to 15-year-old children prior to hearing a multiepisode story, and where inferences from the story drew only on that knowledge base. Making knowledge equally available to all children did not attenuate age-related differences in either coherence or elaborative inferencing. Easily accessible knowledge was generally twice as likely to be used to make inferences during text comprehension as was knowledge that took longer to retrieve, though knowledge accessibility was more important for coherence inferencing in younger than in older children. Children made more coherence than elaborative inferences in the context of text comprehension, even though elaborative inferencing was more frequent in a simpler processing situation. Within the context of an available knowledge base, the results provide evidence for the importance of knowledge accessibility in children’s inferencing, and for the changing developmental relevance of knowledge accessibility for coherence and elaborative inferencing.


Barnes, M. A., Dennis, M., & Haefele-Kalvaitis, J. (1996). The effects of knowledge availability and knowledge accessibility on coherence and elaborative inferencing in children from six to fifteen years of age. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 61(3), 216–241. doi:10.1006/jecp.1996.0015