Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
During language comprehension, readers or listeners routinely infer information that has not been stated literally in a given text or utterance in order to construct a coherent mental representation (situation model). We used a verification task in a behavioral study and in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment to investigate the inference construction process. After having read sentences that mention the outcome of an event explicitly, implicitly, or not at all, participants verified the plausibility of short statements with respect to the context of the just read sentence. The results of the behavioral study established the verification task as a valid method for studying inferences. In the fMRI study, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex was the most prominent area that was involved in the processing of inference statements. Regions in the left and right temporal lobes were associated with comparison processes that are based on the propositional representations of context sentence and test statements. The results are discussed with respect to levels of representations and the memory systems that underlie the verification process in the different sentence conditions.