Brief Report

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 1732-1740

First online:

Brief Report: Conveying Subjective Experience in Conversation: Production of Mental State Terms and Personal Narratives in Individuals with High Functioning Autism

  • Janet BangAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University Email author 
  • , Jesse BurnsAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University
  • , Aparna NadigAffiliated withSchool of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Mental state terms and personal narratives are conversational devices used to communicate subjective experience in conversation. Pre-adolescents with high-functioning autism (HFA, n = 20) were compared with language-matched typically-developing peers (TYP, n = 17) on production of mental state terms (i.e., perception, physiology, desire, emotion, cognition) and personal narratives (sequenced retelling of life events) during short conversations. HFA and TYP participants did not differ in global use of mental state terms, nor did they exhibit reduced production of cognitive terms in particular. Participants with HFA produced significantly fewer personal narratives. They also produced a smaller proportion of their mental state terms during personal narratives. These findings underscore the importance of assessing and developing qualitative aspects of conversation in highly verbal individuals with autism.


High-functioning autism Conversation Personal narrative Mental state terms