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When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication?

Malkin, Louise, Abbot-Smith, Kirsten, Williams, David M., Ayling, John (2018) When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication? Autism Research, 11 . pp. 1366-1375. ISSN 1939-3792. E-ISSN 1939-3806. (doi:10.1002/aur.2007) (KAR id:67544)


One feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a deficit in verbal reference production; i.e., providing an appropriate amount of verbal information for the listener to refer to things, people, and events. However, very few studies have manipulated whether individuals with ASD can take a speaker’s perspective in order to interpret verbal reference. A critical limitation of all interpretation studies is that comprehension of another’s verbal reference required the participant to represent only the other’s visual perspective. Yet, many everyday interpretations of verbal reference require knowledge of social perspective (i.e., a consideration of which experiences one has shared with which interlocutor).

We investigated whether 22 5;0- to 7;11-year-old children with ASD and 22 well-matched typically developing (TD) children used social perspective to comprehend (Study 1) and produce (Study 2) verbal reference. Social perspective-taking was manipulated by having children collaboratively complete activities with one of two interlocutors such that for a given activity, one interlocutor was Knowledgeable and one was Naïve. Study 1 found no between-group differences for the interpretation of ambiguous references based on social perspective. In Study 2, when producing referring terms, the ASD group made modifications based on listener needs, but this effect was significantly stronger in the TD group. Overall, the findings suggest that high-functioning children with ASD know with which interlocutor they have previously shared a given experience and can take this information into account to steer verbal reference. Nonetheless, they show clear performance limitations in this regard relative to well-matched controls.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/aur.2007
Uncontrolled keywords: Autism; Children; Reference; Common Ground; Verbal Social Communication; Production; Comprehension.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF41 Psychology and philosophy
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Kirsten Abbot-Smith
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2018 06:29 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 03:42 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Malkin, Louise.

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Abbot-Smith, Kirsten.

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Williams, David M..

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