An exploration of causes of non-literal language problems in individuals with Asperger syndrome

  • Martin I
  • McDonald S
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Abstract

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS), a high functioning variant of Autism, are often noted to possess intact language ability, yet fail to use this language capacity to engage in interactive communication. This difficulty using language in a social context has been referred to as a deficit in pragmatic language. In particular, difficulty understanding nonliteral language devices, such as irony has been observed. This paper examines the veracity of two theories that have attempted to explain the causes of pragmatic language difficulties in individuals with Asperger Syndrome; the theory of Weak Central Coherence (WCC) and Social Inference theory. Fourteen young adults with AS and 24 age-matched controls were assessed on cognitive tasks measuring WCC processes, social inference or Theory of Mind ability, and the ability to interpret ironic remarks. Results indicated that the ability to understand the belief states of others is critical to understanding ironic language in AS.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Autism
  • Theory of Mind
  • central coherence
  • irony

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Authors

  • Ingerith Martin

  • Skye McDonald

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