Information processing and proactive interference in children with and without specific language impairment


Purpose: Increasing evidence suggests that children with specific language impairment (SLI) have a deficit in inhibition control, but research isolating specific abilities is scarce. The goal of this study was to examine whether children with SLI differ from their peers in resistance to proactive interference under different conditions. Method: An information processing battery with manipulations in interference was administered to 66 children (SLI, agematched peers, and language-matched controls). In Experiment 1, previously relevant targets were used as distractors to create conflict. Experiment 2 used item repetitions to examine how practice strengthens word representations and how the strength of a response impacts performance on the following item. Results: Children with SLI performed similarly to their peers in the baseline condition but were more susceptible to proactive interference than the controls in both experimental conditions. Children with SLI demonstrated difficulty suppressing irrelevant information, made significantly more interference errors than their peers, and showed a slower rate of implicit learning. Conclusion: Children with SLI show weaker resistance to proactive interference than their peers, and this deficit impacts their information processing abilities. The coordination of activation and inhibition is less efficient in these children, but future research is needed to further examine the interaction between these two processes. © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Publication Title

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research