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The atypical pattern of irony comprehension in children with high-functioning autism
Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, Beatrice Giustolisi, Luca Surian, 2018, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Irony comprehension is a complex task that typically developing (TD) children reach around the age of six. Some scholars (Sullivan et al., 1995 a.o.) claimed that 2nd order Theory of Mind (ToM) skills are required to understand irony, but also linguistic abilities (which predict ToM development: Milligan, Astington & Dack, 2007) play a role (Filippova & Astington, 2008; Bosco & Gabbatore, 2017). Children with high-functioning autism (HFA) have intact linguistic abilities, but impaired social relations. Some children with ASD pass even 2nd order ToM tasks, even if they could be using compensatory verbalizing strategies (Fisher, Happé & Dunn, 2005; Happé, 1995; Tager-Flusberg, 2000). We tested irony comprehension in HFA children with the aim to assess the contribution of the factors that may facilitate it and disentangle their relationships. We analyzed responses to the key question to understand irony, i.e. questions on speaker’s meaning and attitude. HFA children showed a peculiar pattern: their accuracy on literal stories was at ceiling, demonstrating that they understood the task, but in irony comprehension they lag behind their TD peers matched for age and non-verbal IQ. Even if this result was not unexpected, given the impairment in social communication associated to HFA, our group of 26 HFA showed a somehow surprising bimodal distribution. Moreover, differently from the TD group, accuracy on ironic stories did not depend neither on age nor on (non-)verbal IQ in HFA participants. And conversely ToM skills played a significant role in irony understanding only for HFA children, and not for TD children.In order to account for these data, we can hypothesize that – in general – HFA children show an impairment in pragmatic inference abilities and in ToM abilities (see Loukusa & Moilanen, 2009 and Baron-Cohen, 2000 for a review), as found also in our sample of LP children. The HP children, on the other hand, might adopt a strategy, different from TD children, to respond correctly to ironic stories, as suggested by Wang et al. (2006). Interestingly, Pexman et al. (2011) found that HFA children, who did not differ in accuracy with respect to TD controls, applied a different processing strategy for irony comprehension, and hypothesized that they resort to a more rule-based strategy, with an intellectual-style approach to compensate their social deficits. Our bimodal distribution could then identify two classes of HFA participants: the LP ones correspond to the pragmatic-impaired profile of HFA, the HP ones on the other hand could be using a compensatory strategy, since they could have been trained to recognize irony and/or other persons’ states of mind (ToM) during speech therapy sessions, as reported in Persicke et al. (2013). Future research should investigate this hypothesis more in depth, with a longitudinal study of HFA participants after a training in irony comprehension, in ToM metarepresentational abilities, and without training.
Found in: osebi
Keywords: irony processing, autism developmental disorder, theory of mind, IQ, experimental pragamtics
Published: 21.09.2021; Views: 134; Downloads: 4
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Guess what?
Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, Chiara Caretta, Remo Job, Luca Surian, 2017, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Pragmatic abilities of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been the subject of extensive research, often considering their communicative problems as derived from their deficit in Theory of Mind (ToM). On the other hand, recent studies on the derivation of scalar implicatures (SIs)– such as some but not all that are built on certain lexical items ordered in an entailment scale based on their informativeness, e.g. "some, all" − found no differences between typical population and people with ASD. With our work we find out that TD group’s performance was significantly better in the ad-hoc condition than the ASD’s, and both groups’ performance was related to Age. With respect to the SIs condition, the TD group’s performance was numerically better than the ASD group, but the difference was not significant, which may be due to a lack of power. Moreover, there is again a positive relationship between Age and SI performance, but only for the TD group. For the ASD group, there are positive relationships between SI performance and ToM as well as the linguistic syntactic measure. These relationships suggest that there is something different underlying the two groups’ performance in the SI condition. In computing SIs, ASD children seem to rely mainly on their syntactic linguistic abilities, which in turn are strongly connected with ToM skills; this connection can be related with the syntactic complexity of ToM’s clauses that involve subordination e.g. You believe that I believe that you believe. On the other hand, given that the best predictor for ad-hoc implicatures computation in ASD children is Age, we may suggest that indeed there is a delay in the development of pragmatic abilities in ASD children, also confirmed by the lower ToM scores in the ASD group. In conclusion, it seems that the computation of SIs and ad-hoc implicatures rests on different computational mechanisms and future research should take this insight into consideration.
Found in: osebi
Keywords: theory of mind, scalar implicatures, adhoc implicatures, autism spectrum disorder
Published: 21.09.2021; Views: 137; Downloads: 4
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Scalar and ad-hoc pragmatic inferences in children: guess which one is easier
Luca Surian, Francesca Panzeri, Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: Several studies investigated preschoolers’ ability to compute scalar and ad-hoc implicatures, but only one compared children’s performance with both kinds of implicature with the same task, a picture selection task. In Experiment 1 (N = 58, age: 4;2-6;0), we first show that the truth value judgment task, traditionally employed to investigate children’s pragmatic ability, prompts a rate of pragmatic responses comparable to the picture selection task. In Experiment 2 (N = 141, age: 3;8-9;2) we used the picture selection task to compare scalar and ad-hoc implicatures and linked the ability to derive these implicatures to some cognitive and linguistic measures. We found that four- and five-year-olds children performed better on ad-hoc than on scalar implicatures. Furthermore, we found that morphosyntactic competence was associated with success in both kinds of implicatures, while performance on mental state reasoning was positively associated with success on scalar but not ad-hoc implicatures.
Found in: osebi
Keywords: acquisition of pragmatics, scalar implicatures, ad-hoc implicatures, experimental pragmatics
Published: 17.09.2021; Views: 144; Downloads: 0
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Ad-hoc and scalar implicatures in children with autism spectrum disorder
Luca Surian, Francesca Foppolo, Remo Job, Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: Previous studies found that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) perform well on pragmatic inference tests that require the use of the linguistic scale . The present study extends previous research by testing two types of implicature: scalar implicatures, based on lexical scales, and ad-hoc implicatures, based on contextual scales. We tested 26 children with ASD aged 4–10 years (mean age 7.1) and 26 typically developing (TD) children – matched on chronological age and with a similar performance in non- verbal IQ and vocabulary – by means of a picture selection task for scalar and ad-hoc implica- tures. We also investigated the effect of children’s scores in standardized tests measuring non- verbal intelligence, lexical, and morphosyntactic abilities and Theory-of-Mind skills on their performance in the implicature tasks. Although more than half of the children with ASD performed above chance on both kinds of implicatures, their performance as a group was significantly lower than the performance of their TD peers. General cognitive abilities were found to affect the performance of children with ASD on both kinds of implicatures, and Theory-of-Mind reasoning skills were found to be linked to their performance on scalar, but not ad-hoc implicatures. We show that children with ASD have difficulty with both kinds of implicatures. These findings may have implications for explanatory theories of pragmatics as well as for clinical work with children with ASD.
Found in: osebi
Keywords: experimental pragmatics, scalar implicatures, high-functioning autism, theory of mind, development
Published: 17.09.2021; Views: 157; Downloads: 0
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What's behind some (but not all) implicatures
Luca Surian, Francesca Panzeri, Francesca Foppolo, Greta Mazzaggio, 2018, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Several studies investigated children’s derivation of pragmatic inferences by testing different items in different languages, populations and tasks (Skordos & Papafragou, 2016). In general, pre-schoolers have difficulties in the computation of the scalar implicature (SI) related to some, while a better performance has been documented in the case of non scalar or ad hoc implicatures (AIs), even in younger kids (Horowitz, Schneider and Frank, 2017; Katsos & Bishop, 2011; Stiller, Goodman & Frank, 2015). Children’s difficulty has been accounted for by different hypotheses: children are more tolerant of pragmatic violations than adults ('tolerance account', Katsos & Bishop, 2011); children do not (always) recognize what is conversationally relevant ('relevance account', Skordos & Papafragou, 2016); children have difficulties in lexicalizing the scale and/or retrieving the lexical alternatives ('lexicalist account', Barner et al., 2011; Foppolo et al., 2012; Tieu et al., 2015). Yet, the source and nature of children’s difficulty is still unknown, as well as the interplay of different factors and their impact on different inference types.Different theoretical accounts make different predictions for SIs and AIs. In principle, no difference is expected between implicature types within a pragmatic approach (like the tolerance or the relevance accounts), provided that children’s non adult-like behavior relies in a principle of pragmatic tolerance or in a failure in accessing or recognizing relevant alternatives, that would equally affect all kinds of implicature. Under lexicalist approaches, on the other hand, a difference between AIs and SIs is expected: while in the case of AIs the alternatives depend solely on context, in SIs the set of alternatives is a feature of the language that relies on the lexical representation of scales. The crucial difference is in the access to the alternatives, which depends on a linguistic representation and a lexical retrieval mechanism in the case of scalar quantifiers, while it is purely contextually determined in the case of ad hoc scales. In our study, we compared AIs and SIs by means of a Picture Selection Task modelled after Surian & Job (1987) and Stiller, Goodman & Frank (2015). Participants had to find the target (among 4 pictures) by following instructions. The tasks included 4 implicatures of each type, interspersed with control sentences. To understand the developmental factors beyond children’s performance, children were also administered tests of cognitive and linguistic development (Raven’s Progressive Matrices; BVL for lexicon and morphosyntax; the first four tasks of Wellman & Liu 2004 to test for Theory of Mind, ToM: Diverse Desires-Diverse Beliefs-Knowledge Access-Content False Belief). We tested 141 children aged 3 to 9 (75 in kindergarten: 3;10-6;0, M = 61 months; 66 in primary school: 6;10-9;2, M=90 months). Our findings add an additional piece to the understanding of children’s failure and success with scalar inferencing. In particular, we show that younger children succeed with AIs but have difficulties with SIs. We also found a significant role of linguistic (i.e., morpho-syntactic) abilities for both type of implicatures and a contribution of ToM: KA predicts implicatures derivation, and DB seems to play a role in SIs.The overall picture is rather puzzling: focusing on pre-schoolers, their ability to derive both types of implicatures seems to depend on common mechanisms, such as morpho-syntactic skills and the ability to recognize that another person can know something only if she has access to relevant information. Nevertheless, by controlling for task effects, we confirmed that SIs are harder than AIs. This finding is not easily explained within a pragmatic approach: if children were, in general, more logical or more tolerant than adults, they would be equally so with any kind of implicature; at the same time, if they were not sensitive to informativeness or unable to recognize relevance, they would fail with all pragmatic inferences. A lexical account instead predicts that, beyond general mechanisms common to SIs and AIs, the derivation of SIs requires one further step, that takes time to be acquired or automatized, namely: the lexicalization of the relevant scales. This might be the real source of the observed difference between these types of inferences, although further research is needed to fully capture its impact on children’s performance.
Found in: osebi
Summary of found: ...alternatives ('lexicalist account', Barner et al., 2011; Foppolo et al., 2012; Tieu et al., 2015)....
Keywords: scalar implicatures, adhoc implicatures, typically developing children, experimental pragmatics
Published: 21.09.2021; Views: 105; Downloads: 3
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A group of researchers is/are testing agreement with pseudopartitives
M. Rita Manzini, Ludovico Franco, Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Found in: osebi
Keywords: pseudopartitives, agreement attraction, agreement
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 77; Downloads: 2
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Find a friend or a scale mate
Francesca Panzeri, Luca Surian, Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, 2017, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Found in: osebi
Keywords: implicatures, scalar implicatures, quantifiers
Published: 23.09.2021; Views: 116; Downloads: 2
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