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Irony and Empathy in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2013

Maureen Dennis*
Affiliation:
Program in Neuroscience & Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
Nevena Simic
Affiliation:
Program in Neuroscience & Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
Alba Agostino
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
H. Gerry Taylor
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Erin D. Bigler
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kenneth Rubin
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
Kathryn Vannatta
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio Center for Biobehavioral Health, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
Cynthia A. Gerhardt
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio Center for Biobehavioral Health, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
Terry Stancin
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio Department of Psychiatry, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Keith Owen Yeates
Affiliation:
Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio Center for Biobehavioral Health, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
*
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Maureen Dennis, Department of Psychology, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5G 1X8. E-mail: maureen.dennis@sickkids.ca

Abstract

Social communication involves influencing what other people think and feel about themselves. We use the term conative theory of mind (ToM) to refer to communicative interactions involving one person trying to influence the mental and emotional state of another, paradigmatic examples of which are irony and empathy. This study reports how children with traumatic brain injury (TBI) understand ironic criticism and empathic praise, on a task requiring them to identify speaker belief and intention for direct conative speech acts involving literal truth, and indirect speech acts involving either ironic criticism or empathic praise. Participants were 71 children in the chronic state of a single TBI and 57 age- and gender-matched children with orthopedic injuries (OI). Group differences emerged on indirect speech acts involving conation (i.e., irony and empathy), but not on structurally and linguistically identical direct speech acts, suggesting specific deficits in this aspect of social cognition in school-age children with TBI. Deficits in children with mild-moderate TBI were less widespread and more selective than those of children with more severe injuries. Deficits in understanding the social, conative function of indirect speech acts like irony and empathy have widespread and deep implications for social function in children with TBI. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–11)

Type
Research Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2013

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