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Title: The effects of social context and perspective on language processing : evidence from Autism Spectrum Disorder
Author: Barzy, Mahsa
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 1941
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis aimed to provide new insights into the role of perspective and non-linguistic context in language processing among autistic and typically developing (TD) adults. The mental simulation account and the one-step model state that language is mentally simulated and interpreted in context, suggesting that these processes are activated online while linguistic input is processed. Little is known of whether the same processes are activated in autism. In seven experiments (four were fully pre-registered), I used offline and online measures (e.g. EEG, eye-tracking) to investigate how social factors, such as the perspective, speaker's voice, emotional states of the characters, and topic of conversation influence language comprehension in both lab and real-life settings, in autism and TD adults. Based on the weak central coherence (WCC), and the complex information processing disorder (CIPD) theories, it was expected that autistic adults would struggle to integrate the social context with language, or at least show some subtle delays in the time-course of these anticipation/integration processes. First, I failed to find the same effect as previous findings, showing enhanced processing for personalized language, suggesting that this process is dependent on individual preferences in perspective-taking and task demands. Furthermore, I found that contrary to the WCC, autistic individuals had an intact ability to integrate social context online, while extracting the meaning from language. There were subtle differences in the time-course and strength of these processes between autistic and TD adults under high cognitive load. Findings are in line with CIPD hypothesis, showing that online language processes are disrupted as task demands increase, which consequently affect the quality of their social interactions. Future research should further investigate how these subtle differences impact social communication abilities in everyday life in autism.
Supervisor: Ferguson, Heather ; Williams, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology