Natural Language Understanding Wiki

Theories differ in what kind of inference is quickly and frequently made during reading. From Graesser et al. (2001)[1]:

  • Constructionist theory (Graesser et al. 1994[2]; Graesser and Zwaan 1995[3]): 'explanation-based' inferences are routinely generated while comprehending information in all modes -- text, film, and the world.
  • Minimalist hypothesis (McKoon and Ratcliff, 1992[4]): the only inferences that readers routinely and quickly generate are those that arereadily available in working memory and that are needed to establish local text coherence
  • Early theories of mental models (Glenberg, Meyer, and Lindem 1987[5]; Johnson-Laird 1983[6]): predicted that readers construct spatial inferences (among others)

Forward inference[]

From Perfetti et al. (2007)[7]: "according to the minimalist hypothesis, which assumes that readers generally make only those inferences necessary for text coherence and not those that merely elaborate information in the text (McKoon & Ratcliff, 1992). Of course, the occurrence of forward inferences has been the subject of much research and controversy, and there are rebuttals to the minimalist position (Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994)."


  1. Graesser, A. C., Wiemer-Hastings, P., & Wiemer-Hastings, K. (2001). Constructing inferences and relations during text comprehension. Text Representation: Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Aspects, 2742(901), 249–271.
  2. Graesser, A.C., Singer, M., & Trabasso, T. (1994). Constructing inferences during narrative text comprehension. Psychological Review, 101, 371-395.
  3. Graesser, A. C., & Zwaan, R. A. (1995). Inference generation and the construction of situation models. In C. A. Weaver, S. Mannes, & C. R. Fletcher (Eds.), Discourse comprehension: Strategies and processing revisited (pp. 117-139). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  4. McKoon, G., & Ratcliff, R. (1992). Inference during reading. Psychological Review, 99, 440-466.
  5. Glenberg, A.M., Meyer, M., & Lindem, K. (1987). Mental models contribute to foregrounding during text comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 26, 69-83.
  6. Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1983). Mental models . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  7. Perfetti, C., Yang, C., & Schmalhofer, F. (2007). Comprehension Skill and Word-to-Text Integration Processes. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21(December 2006), 1057–1075.