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1.
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: ključnih besedah
Keywords: irony processing, autism developmental disorder, theory of mind, IQ, experimental pragamtics
Published: 21.09.2021; Views: 203; Downloads: 7
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2.
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: ključnih besedah
Keywords: experimental pragmatics, scalar implicatures, high-functioning autism, theory of mind, development
Published: 17.09.2021; Views: 237; Downloads: 0
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3.
The production of pronouns and verb inflections by Italian children with ASD
Aaron Shield, Greta Mazzaggio, 2020, original scientific article

Abstract: The language of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often characterized by difficulties with pronouns. The underlying reasons for such difficulties are still unclear. This study is the first to test the abilities of children with ASD who speak Italian, a language in which overt subject pronouns are optional but verbs obligatorily feature person-referencing morphology. We found that Italian children with ASD were less accurate than typically-developing (TD) Italian children in the production of first-, second-, and third-person singular pronouns, avoiding pronouns in favor of nouns or names more often than controls. Moreover, children with ASD produced more overt pronouns than null pronouns in marked contexts, compared to TD children. These phenomena can be accounted for by difficulties with pragmatics.
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...The language of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often characterized by...
Keywords: autism, autism spectrum disorder, pronoun production, pronoun avoidance, language development
Published: 17.09.2021; Views: 207; Downloads: 6
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4.
A diminished propensityto compute scalar implicaturesis linked to autistic traits
Greta Mazzaggio, Luca Surian, 2018, original scientific article

Abstract: We investigated whether there is an association between autistic traits in the broader pheno- type and the ability to compute scalar implicatures. Previous studies found that the frequency of autistic traits is higher in students of science than of humanities. Here we recorded the frequency of rejection of underinformative scalar items in students enrolled either in a science or in a humanities curriculum and assessed their autistic traits using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient questionnaire. We found that rejec- tions were less frequent in science curricula students than in humanities curricula students. Moreover, rejections were associated negatively with autistic traits and positively with performance on Theory- of-Mind tasks. These findings suggest that autism cognitive phenotype is negatively associated with a propensity to spontaneously derive scalar implicatures.
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...and assessed their autistic traits using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient questionnaire. We found that rejec- tions...
Keywords: scalar implicatures, quantifiers, Autism-spectrum Quotient, pragmatics, theory of mind
Published: 17.09.2021; Views: 216; Downloads: 0
.pdf Fulltext (754,97 KB)

5.
Reading between the lines
Greta Mazzaggio, 2018, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: This thesis' aim is to add some pieces to the complex puzzle on the mechanism behind the comprehension of conversational implicatures. To do so, in a series of experiment we manipulated both the type of implicatures (scalar vs. ad-hoc) and the population under investigation (typical vs. atypical; children vs. adults).
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...scalar implicatures, experimental pragmatics, autism developmental disorder, bilingualism, typically developing children, theory...
Keywords: scalar implicatures, experimental pragmatics, autism developmental disorder, bilingualism, typically developing children, theory of mind, dissertations
Published: 20.09.2021; Views: 220; Downloads: 0
.pdf Fulltext (3,98 MB)

6.
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: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...Pragmatic abilities of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been the subject...
Keywords: theory of mind, scalar implicatures, adhoc implicatures, autism spectrum disorder
Published: 21.09.2021; Views: 206; Downloads: 7
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7.
La comprensione dell'ironia in bambini con disturbi dello spettro autistico
Luca Surian, Beatrice Giustolisi, Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Panzeri, 2018, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Comprendere l’ironia è un compito complesso che i bambini a sviluppo tipico compiono a partire dai sei anni. Diversi studi hanno evidenziato il ruolo della Teoria della Mente (ToM) e delle abilità linguistiche nella comprensione dell’ironia. Gli individui con Disturbi dello Spettro Autistico ad alto funzionamento (AAF) sono caratterizzati da abilità linguistiche intatte ma deficit nella ToM e nella pragmatica, a volte compensati mediante strategie linguistiche. Obiettivo del nostro studio è indagare la comprensione dell’ironia (sia critiche che complimenti) in questa popolazione, al fine di individuare i fattori che la facilitano. I partecipanti sono 26 bambini con AAF (età media = 7,2) e 26 bambini a sviluppo tipico (ST) di pari età (p = .98), testati per QI non verbale, abilità linguistiche (sintassi e lessico), e ToM. Per la comprensione dell’ironia abbiamo creato un compito composto da 10 brevi storie che si concludono con un commento letterale (4, controllo) o ironico (3 complimenti e 3 critiche), a cui seguivano tre domande che richiedevano il riconoscimento del significato inteso, dell’atteggiamento del parlante, e del contesto (come controllo). Entrambi i gruppi non hanno dimostrato difficoltà nel comprendere le storie letterali (AAF: 99%; ST: 99.5%). Attraverso un’analisi di regressione logistica abbiamo riscontrato una maggiore accuratezza di risposte per entrambe le tipologie di ironia (complimento e critica) nel gruppo a ST rispetto al gruppo di AAF (β = 8.25, SE = 2.52, z = 3.27, p = .001). In entrambi i gruppi l’accuratezza è stata maggiore per le critiche ironiche rispetto ai complimenti ironici (β = 0.90, SE = 0.32, z = 2.83, p = .005). L’analisi di correlazione di Pearson ha individuato come nel gruppo di AAF solo la ToM correli con la comprensione dell’ ironia (p < .001) mentre nel gruppo di bambini a ST, invece, al netto del fattore età solo le abilità sintattiche correlano (p = .03). Nel gruppo di AAF si evidenzia una netta distribuzione bimodale nelle risposte alle storie ironiche: la maggioranza dei bambini (16) ha dimostrato enormi difficoltà (accuratezza < 25%) mentre alcuni bambini (6) hanno dimostrato piena comprensione. I bambini AAF mostrano un pattern atipico rispetto ai controlli a ST. Per spiegare questi dati ipotizziamo che i bambini con AAF con basse abilità di ToM, nella comprensione dell’ironia corrispondano al profilo degli individui AAF con deficit pragmatici e meta-rappresentazionali; i bambini con AAF che hanno una perfetta comprensione dell’ironia e alte abilità di ToM potrebbero utilizzare una strategia compensatoria, forse a seguito di una riabilitazione. Future ricerche di tipo
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...irony, autism spectrum disorder, experimental pragmatics, theory of mind...
Keywords: irony, autism spectrum disorder, experimental pragmatics, theory of mind
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 189; Downloads: 6
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8.
Autism and pronoun reversal
Greta Mazzaggio, 2014, master's thesis

Abstract: My project aimed at giving a personal contribution to an important international debate relevant to psycholinguistics. In particular, I studied the relationship between Theory of Mind (ToM) and the production of first- and second-person pronouns in typically developing children (TD) and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Moving from the dense general framework of references I created an experimental protocol with the main goal to test the existent and newest hypotheses on ToM consequential development and on the differences between the phenomena of pronoun reversal (PR) in TD children and children with ASD, to have, at the end of the hypothetical experiment, some data that can prove a correlation between the phenomena of PR and a lack or a deficit in ToM. The newness of my experimental protocol is the Italian native children target; Italian language is pro-drop and it has the agreement between the subject pronoun and the verb, for this reason it has never been studied to find possible a validation of previous studies and theories on other languages.The experiment will be structured with two batteries of tests, the first that will be a translation and adaptation in Italian of Wellmann and Liu’s seven tasks (2004) to assess the level of Theory of Mind and to verify the consequentiality hypothesis, and the second, formed by two tasks, that will assess the level of production of first- and second-person pronouns, focusing on the phenomena of PR. The objective of my potential experiment is to find a correlation between the two phenomena cited above; it can be a good starting point for further analyses on the direction of this theorized connection.
Found in: ključnih besedah
Keywords: pronoun reversal, autism developmental disorders, theory of mind, echolalia, pronouns
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 211; Downloads: 0
.pdf Fulltext (1,34 MB)

9.
The production and comprehension of pronouns and verb inflections by Italian children with ASD
Aaron Shield, Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Pronoun difficulties have long been a key feature in defining autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most studies to-date have been conducted in English. Italian is a language in which subject pronouns are optional but verbs obligatorily exhibit person-referencing morphology. This study is the first to investigate the pronominal abilities of Italian children with ASD. We tested 26 Italian children with ASD and 35 typically developing (TD) children, matched for syntactic abilities. Pronouns were elicited in focus position and in conjunction with a verb. Children’s theory of mind, nonverbal intelligence, lexical knowledge, and pronoun comprehension were also tested. TD children produced the correct forms of 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd person pronouns significantly more often than the children with ASD, who were more likely to produce their own name rather than a pronoun. Children with ASD omitted optional subject pronouns significantly less often than TD children. Our data suggest that Italian children with ASD are generally able to acquire and use pronominal forms, but struggle with understanding when and where to use them appropriately, pointing to underlying challenges with pragmatics.
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...long been a key feature in defining autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most studies to-date have...
Keywords: pronouns, pronoun reversal, autism developmental disorders
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 167; Downloads: 5
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10.
Indirect speech acts in high functioning autism
Greta Mazzaggio, Simona Di Paola, Eleonora Marocchini, Filippo Domaneschi, 2019, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Few works have addressed the processing of indirect requests in High-Functioning Autism (HFA), and results are conflicting. Some studies report HFA individuals’ difficulties in indirect requests comprehension; others suggest that it might be preserved in HFA. Furthermore, the role of Theory of Mind in understanding indirect requests is an open issue. The goal of this work is twofold: first, assessing whether comprehension of indirect requests for information is preserved in HFA; second, explor- ing whether mind-reading skills predict this ability. We tested a group of (n = 14; 9–12 years) HFA children and two groups of younger (n = 19; 5–6 years) and older (n = 28; 9–12 years) typically developing (TD) children in a semi-structured task involving direct, indirect and highly indirect requests for information. Results suggested that HFA can understand indirect and highly indirect requests, as well as TD children. Yet, while Theory of Mind skills seem to enhance older TD children under- standing, this is not the case for HFA children. Therefore, interestingly, they could rely on different interpretative strategies
Found in: ključnih besedah
Keywords: indirect speech act, indirect requests, theory of mind, autism developmental disorders, experimental pragmatics
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 176; Downloads: 5
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