A Less Simple View of Reading: The Role of Inhibition and Working Memory in the Decoding-Comprehension Relationship
The present study examines the influencing effect of executive functions, specifically inhibition and working memory, on the relationship between decoding and reading comprehension. The current research suggests that the decoding-comprehension relationship is likely more complex than past theoretical models have postulated. Recently, the idea that non-linguistic cognitive skills may be responsible for this relationship has gained traction. As a part of the NHLP, a longitudinal cohort study conducted in New Haven, Connecticut, 256 students were asked to complete reading and executive function measures, as the children progressed through grade 1 and 2. These measures included tasks independently designed to assess decoding, working memory, inhibition and vocabulary, as well as two separate measures of reading comprehension. Results showed that inhibition acted as a significant mediator in both the decoding-comprehension and vocabulary-comprehension relationships. The results also showed that working memory acted as a significant moderator of the direct effect in the decoding-comprehension relationship, but did not moderate the vocabulary-comprehension relationship. These findings support the idea that decoding and language alone are not solely responsible for reading comprehension performance, and that other non-linguistic factors must be taken into consideration. Better understanding the decoding-comprehension relationship has important implications for teaching practice, and early identification and intervention required for exceptional learners.