Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study was designed to study the three-level hierarchy of information processing with respect to cognitive demand. The study addressed the problem of differences between the most commonly used levels of comprehension, literal, inferential, and critical. The main types of information processing models, bottom-up, top-down, and interactive-compensatory, all accept the premise that literal processing is less cognitively demanding than inferential processing, and that inferential processing is less cognitively demanding than critical processing. In order to test whether statistically significant differences actually existed in these three levels of comprehension, fifty students were chosen and individually tested. Twenty-five fifth graders, and twenty-five sixth graders, with an equal division of males and females, composed the sample of fifty. The instrument used was the California Achievement Test. The method used was the dual task method, where the students performed the primary task above, as well as a secondary task. The secondary task employed an audiometer, and required the students to mark a grid according to sounds in the left or right ears. There were twenty-one hypotheses, all of the null variety, and all allowing for the combinations of all three comprehension levels. Results from an analysis of the data showed that for the primary task, only four of the possible forty-two areas showed differences. For the secondary task (X-task) none of the possible twenty-one areas showed differences. The data provided strong evidence to deny the existence of statistically significant differences among the three levels of comprehension with respect to cognitive demand. Recommendations were made to practitioners based upon the findings. One suggestion was for classroom teachers to use a variety and mixture of questions at all levels. Recommendations were also made to researchers interested in this same direction of study. The major suggestion in this category dealt with the need to find a better measure of difficulty for comprehension questions.