skip to main content skip to footer

From Comprehension to Inference NICHD

Carroll, John B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Learning Processes, Reading Comprehension, Reading Skills, Reading Tests


Adapted from an address given at the Claremont Reading Conference in Claremont, California on February 7, 1969, this paper reexamines the concept of "comprehension" and compares it with the concept of "drawing inferences" from what is read. The author summarizes the reading process, insofar as it concerns the apprehension of meaning, as having two distinct phases: the comprehension of the literal sense of what is read and the inferring of deeper meanings that are not explicitly stated. Adequate comprehension is generally prerequisite to the making of correct inferences. Comprehension of literal sense in turn depends upon three somewhat distinct skills: vocabulary knowledge, ability to apprehend grammatical relations, and ability to integrate the lexical and grammatical information in a text to perceive the meaning. The making of inferences also consists of separate skills: a general ability to reason with information that is presented, and the ability to appreciate an author's purpose, attitude, tone, and mood. Each of these skills must be taught--either separately or in combination.

Read More