Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 1097–1112 | Cite as

Processing of Ironic Language in Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Penny M. Pexman
  • Kristin R. Rostad
  • Carly A. McMorris
  • Emma A. Climie
  • Jacqueline Stowkowy
  • Melanie R. Glenwright
Original Paper


We examined processing of verbal irony in three groups of children: (1) 18 children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD), (2) 18 typically-developing children, matched to the first group for verbal ability, and (3) 18 typically-developing children matched to the first group for chronological age. We utilized an irony comprehension task that minimized verbal and pragmatic demands for participants. Results showed that children with HFASD were as accurate as typically-developing children in judging speaker intent for ironic criticisms, but group differences in judgment latencies, eye gaze, and humor evaluations suggested that children with HFASD applied a different processing strategy for irony comprehension; one that resulted in less accurate appreciation of the social functions of irony.


Verbal irony High-functioning Autism spectrum disorder Language processing Eye gaze Figurative language 



This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) research grant to P. M. P. We thank Alice Post and Helen MacDonald for assistance with this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Penny M. Pexman
    • 1
  • Kristin R. Rostad
    • 1
  • Carly A. McMorris
    • 1
    • 4
  • Emma A. Climie
    • 2
  • Jacqueline Stowkowy
    • 1
  • Melanie R. Glenwright
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Division of Applied PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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