How Do Theory of Mind and Understanding Social Situations Contribute to Idiom and Irony Comprehension in ASD?

28 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2024

See all articles by Nira Mashal

Nira Mashal

Bar-Ilan University

Naama Lellouche

Bar-Ilan University

Abstract

Figurative language is a central tool for enriching spoken and written language that enhances the creation of a high linguistic level among skilled speakers. Studies have found gaps in the understanding of irony and idioms among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to their peers with typical development (TD). A core difficulty among children with ASD is impaired social cognition, which includes the understanding of social situations. Yet, to date, no studies have examined the relationship between the ability to understand social situations (as a separate ability) and the ability to understand irony and idioms. The present study examined idiom and irony comprehension and the roles of Theory of Mind (ToM) and social situation understanding in the comprehension of idiom and irony. This study included 58 participants aged 8–11, including 28 children with high-functioning ASD, and 30 children with TD matched by age, gender, and nonverbal intelligence. All participants completed ToM questionnaires to assess their understanding of the other’s intentions, as well as questionnaires pertaining to their comprehension of social situations, irony, and idioms. The results confirmed the gap between the two groups and demonstrated positive correlations between understanding of social situations and understanding of idioms and irony in each group. Ultimately, vocabulary was found to play a central role in contributing to the understanding of idioms and irony. Furthermore, understanding social situations and ToM contributed to idiom and irony understanding, with ToM ability uniquely contributing to irony (but not to idiom) understanding. Thus, the present study demonstrates that core language and social cognition abilities contribute to the understanding of irony and idioms, with ToM contributing more substantially to irony comprehension.

Keywords: Figurative language, Irony, Idioms, ASD, ToM

Suggested Citation

Mashal, Nira and Lellouche, Naama, How Do Theory of Mind and Understanding Social Situations Contribute to Idiom and Irony Comprehension in ASD?. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4683501 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4683501

Nira Mashal (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University ( email )

Ramat Gan
Ramat Gan, 52900
Israel

Naama Lellouche

Bar-Ilan University ( email )

Ramat Gan
Ramat Gan, 52900
Israel

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