Comprehension is compromised in many communication disorders. Patients with a vast range of impairments—linguistic, cognitive, auditory—may be diagnosed with a receptive language disorder. Comprehension is also implicated in developmental disorders such as autism and Down syndrome, in pre- and perinatal neurological impairments, and in many aphasias and dementias. Assessment of comprehension relies on a variety of behavioral measures: answering questions, pointing, demonstrating an expected behavior, and others.

Despite the pervasiveness of the concept in the field, however, its nature is poorly understood. The reason for this is twofold. First, comprehension is a mental state and, as such, unobservable. Second, its scope is unclear, as is the range of behaviors that count as its indicators. This entry discusses comprehension as a problem to be tackled rather ...

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