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Title: Executive functioning and the interpretation of social information following traumatic brain injury
Author: Watts, Mike
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is commonly associated with problems in social functioning. There have been very few studies conducted to elucidate the specific contribution of cognitive deficits to these problems. Previous studies have suggested that executive impairment might be related to poor social decision-making. This study aimed to examine whether TBI was related to problems with the interpretation of social information and to what extent any problems were associated with executive impairment. The performance of seventeen TBI non-aphasic participants was compared to seventeen healthy control group participants matched in age, sex and NART IQ on neuropsychological tests of executive function, theory-of-mind-type social comprehension tasks and three real- life-type social tasks involving the interpretation of social information. The social interpretation tasks consisted of a pragmatic judgment task, a social skill judgment task and a conversation judgment task. The first two tasks presented a series of short written social interactions between pairs of characters. It was necessary to rate alternative verbal responses made by one character, which varied in their degree of context appropriateness and skill. The third task involved judging the manner and para-linguistic features of characters in an audible conversation. The TBI group performed more poorly on the pragmatic judgment and social skill judgment tasks. They demonstrated poor inferential sensitivity by failing to differentiate adequately between alternative responses. They were also significantly impaired on the measures of attention, executive function and theory-of-mind-type social comprehension, compared to the Control group. It was argued that difficulty appreciating the appropriateness and skilfulness of responses reflected poor inhibitory control resulting from deficits in executive functioning. Despite a lack of correlational evidence to support an executive explanation, this was considered more plausible to an account in terms of selective theory of mind impairment. TBI group performance on the conversation judgment task was generally similar to the Control group. They judged the manner of the characters as accurately as the Control group. However, they appeared less sensitive to the presence of para-linguistic features. It was speculated that this might have been due to poor attention or difficulties retaining and retrieving information. Overall, the findings suggest that there is a need for further research examining the interpretation of social information in TBI patients. The implications for rehabilitation were discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available