Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 10, pp 2568–2583 | Cite as

Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder Comprehend Lexicalized and Novel Primary Conceptual Metaphors

  • Eric L. Olofson
  • Drew Casey
  • Olufemi A. Oluyedun
  • Jo Van Herwegen
  • Adam Becerra
  • Gabriella Rundblad
Original Paper


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty comprehending metaphors. However, no study to date has examined whether or not they understand conceptual metaphors (i.e. mappings between conceptual structures), which could be the building blocks of metaphoric thinking and understanding. We investigated whether 13 participants with ASD (age 7;03–22;03) and 13 age-matched typically developing (TD) controls could comprehend lexicalized conceptual metaphors (e.g., Susan is a warm person) and novel ones (e.g., Susan is a toasty person). Individuals with ASD performed at greater than chance levels on both metaphor types, although their performance was lower than TD participants. We discuss the theoretical relevance of these findings and educational implications.


Autism Metaphor Conceptual metaphor Language 



We would like to thank Tom Barth, Judy McDonald, Mary Rosswurm, and Tim Courtney for their assistance in data collection. We would also like to thank the participants and parents for their generosity and time. This research was supported by funds from Wabash College to EO, DC, OO, and AB.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric L. Olofson
    • 1
  • Drew Casey
    • 1
  • Olufemi A. Oluyedun
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jo Van Herwegen
    • 2
  • Adam Becerra
    • 1
    • 5
  • Gabriella Rundblad
    • 3
  1. 1.Wabash CollegeCrawfordsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Kingston UniversitySurreyUK
  3. 3.King’s College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Adler School of Professional PsychologyChicagoUSA

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