Irony and Empathy in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractSocial 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)


  • Dennis, Maureen
  • Simic, Nevena
  • Agostino, Alba
  • Taylor, H Gerry
  • Bigler, Erin D
  • Rubin, Kenneth
  • Vannatta, Kathryn
  • Gerhardt, Cynthia A
  • Stancin, Terry
  • Yeates, Keith Owen

publication date

  • March 2013