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The Cognitive Underpinnings of Irony Interpretation by Children

Zajaczkowska, Maria (2020) The Cognitive Underpinnings of Irony Interpretation by Children. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:82177)

Language: English
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Verbal irony is when a speaker's communicative intent is not the literal meaning of the statement and is commonly used as banter or to soften criticism. The main aim of this thesis is to investigate the cognitive underpinnings of irony interpretation in children. To date, the main focus of the developmental irony literature was on the role of mentalising, which is often defined as the ability to understand that others may have different beliefs, knowledge or desires. There are some good theoretical reasons that other cognitive skills, such as Executive Functions, might be crucial for irony interpretation too. For instance, it is theoretically plausible that one of the main components of EF, cognitive flexibility, might play an important role as the addressee of the ironic comment must switch between decoding the actual (literal) and the intended (ironic) meaning. Yet, only a handful of research looked at other than mentalising cognitive skills underpinning irony interpretation. To attempt to explore what cognitive factors underpin irony interpretation, N = 233 children (6- to 12-year-olds) were tested with newly developed irony measures across two correlational (Experiment 1 and 2) and one experimental study (Experiment 3). Over all the empirical studies, there was evidence for the role of mentalising - particularly in the experimental study - but it was not clear which particular aspect of mentalising was required. Moreover, there was conflicting evidence regarding the role of cognitive flexibility; in the correlational studies cognitive flexibility was found to be an independent predictor or irony whereas in the experimental study the effect of cognitive flexibility was not found. In the final chapter a suggestion is made that using more sensitive online measures, such as eye-tracking, and moving towards experimental as opposed to correlational measures might enable the detection of the role of cognitive flexibility on the irony interpretation

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Abbot-Smith, Kirsten
Uncontrolled keywords: irony, executive functions, theory of mind
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2020 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 13 May 2022 11:36 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Zajaczkowska, Maria.

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