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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Autism Metaphor Conceptual metaphor Language 

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013a). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013b). Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. Retrieved from http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes%20from%20dsm-iv-tr%20to%20dsm-5.pdf.
  4. Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baron-Cohen, S. (2000). Theory of mind and autism: A 15-year review. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental cognitive neuroscience (2nd ed., pp. 3–21). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Belmonte, M. K., Allen, G., Beckel-Mitchener, A., Boulanger, L. M., Carper, R. A., & Webb, S. J. (2004). Autism and abnormal development of brain connectivity. The Journal of Neuroscience, 24(42), 9228–9231.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bowdle, B. F., & Gentner, D. (2005). The career of metaphor. Psychological Review, 112(1), 193–216.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Colston, H. L., & Kuiper, M. S. (2002). Figurative language development research and popular children’s literature: Why we should know,” Where the Wild Things Are”. Metaphor and Symbol, 17(1), 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common core state standards for English language arts & literacy in history. Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 2. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf.
  10. De Jaegher, H. (2013). Embodiment and sense-making in autism. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 7(15), 1–19. doi:10.3389/fnint.2013.00015.Google Scholar
  11. Dennis, M., Lazenby, A. L., & Lockyer, L. (2001). Inferential language in high-function children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 47–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, D. M. (2007). Peabody picture vocabulary test (4th ed.). San Antonio, TX: Pearson Assessments.Google Scholar
  13. Eigsti, I. (2013). A review of embodiment in autism spectrum disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.Google Scholar
  14. Gallese, V., & Lakoff, G. (2005). The brain’s concepts: The role of the sensory-motor system in conceptual knowledge. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22(3–4), 455–479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gelman, A., & Stern, H. (2006). The difference between “significant” and “not significant” is not itself statistically significant. American Statistician, 60(4), 328–331. doi:10.1198/000313006X152649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gentner, D. (1988). Metaphor as structure mapping: The relational shift. Child Development, 59(1), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gentner, D., Bowdle, B. F., Wolff, P., & Boronat, C. (2001). Metaphor is like analogy. In D. Gentner, K. J. Holyoak, & B. N. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gentner, D., & Clement, C. A. (1988). Evidence for relational selectivity in interpreting analogy and metaphor. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (pp. 307–358). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gibbs, R. W. (2011). Evaluating conceptual metaphor theory. Discourse Processes, 48(8), 529–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibbs, R. W., Lima, P. L. C., & Francozo, E. (2004). Metaphor is grounded in embodied experience. Journal of Pragmatics, 36(7), 1189–1210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gick, M. L., & Holyoak, K. J. (1980). Analogical problem solving. Cognitive Psychology, 12(3), 306–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Giora, R. (1997). Understanding figurative and literal language: The graded salience hypothesis. Cognitive Linguistics, 8, 183–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giora, R. (1999). On the priority of salient meanings: Studies of literal and figurative language. Journal of Pragmatics, 31(7), 919–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Giora, R. (2003). On our mind: Salience, context, and figurative language. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Giora, R., Gazal, O., Goldstein, I., Fein, O., & Stringaris, A. (2012). Salience and context: Interpretation of metaphorical and literal language by young adults diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Metaphor and Symbol, 27(1), 22–54. doi:10.1080/10926488.2012.638823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gold, R., & Faust, M. (2010). Right hemisphere dysfunction and metaphor comprehension in young adults with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(7), 800–811. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0930-1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gottfried, G. M. (1997). Comprehending compounds: Evidence for metaphoric skill? Journal of Child Language, 24(1), 163–186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grady, J. (1997a). Foundations of meaning: Primary metaphors and primary scenes. (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley).Google Scholar
  29. Grady, J. (1997b). Theories are buildings revisited. Cognitive Linguistics, 8, 267–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grady, J. (1999). A typology of motivation for conceptual metaphor: Correlation vs. resemblance. In G. Steen & R. W. Gibbs (Eds.), Metaphor in cognitive linguistics (pp. 79–100). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grady, J. (2005). Primary metaphors as inputs to conceptual integration. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1595–1614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grady, J., & Johnson, C. (2000). Converging evidence for the notions of subscene and primary scene. In R. Dirven & R. Pörings (Eds.), Metaphor and metonymy in comparison and contrast (pp. 533–554). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  33. Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics, Vol. 3: Speech acts (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. Gunter, H. L., Ghaziuddin, M., & Ellis, H. D. (2002). Asperger syndrome: Tests of right hemisphere functioning and interhemispheric communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(4), 263–281.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Happé, F. G. (1993). Communicative competence and theory of mind in autism: A test of relevance theory. Cognition, 48(2), 101–119.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hus, V., & Lord, C. (2013). Effects of child characteristics on the autism diagnostic interview-revised: Implications for use of scores as a measure of ASD severity. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(2), 371–381.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Jakobson, B., & Wickman, P. (2007). Transformation through language use: Children’s spontaneous metaphors in elementary school science. Science & Education, 16(3–5), 267–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jolliffe, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1999). A test of central coherence theory: Linguistic processing in high-functioning adults with autism or Asperger syndrome: Is local coherence impaired? Cognition, 71(2), 149–185.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Just, M. A., Cherkassky, V. L., Keller, T. A., Kana, R. K., & Minshew, N. J. (2007). Functional and anatomical cortical underconnectivity in autism: Evidence from an fMRI study of an executive function task and corpus callosum morphometry. Cerebral Cortex, 17(4), 951–961. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhl006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kana, R. K., Keller, T. A., Cherkassky, V. L., Minshew, N. J., & Just, M. A. (2006). Sentence comprehension in autism: Thinking in pictures with decreased functional connectivity. Brain, 129(9), 2484–2493.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kövecses, Z. (1990). Emotion concepts. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kövecses, Z. (2005). Metaphor in culture: Universality and variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  45. Lakoff, G., & Turner, M. (1989). More than cool reason: A field guide to poetic metaphor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Le Couteur, A., Lord, C., & Rutter, M. (2003). The autism diagnostic interview—revised (ADI-R). Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  47. MacKay, G., & Shaw, A. (2004). A comparative study of figurative language in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 20(1), 13–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mashal, N., & Kasirer, A. (2011). Thinking maps enhance metaphoric competence in children with autism and learning disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(6), 2045–2054.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mayes, S. D., & Calhoun, S. L. (2003). Relationship between Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. In M. Prior (Ed.), Learning and behavior problems in Asperger syndrome (pp. 15–34). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  50. Miller, L. T., & Lee, C. J. (1993). Construct validation of the peabody picture vocabulary test—revised: A structural equation model of the acquisition order of words. Psychological Assessment, 5(4), 438–441. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.5.4.438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Murphy, G. L. (1996). On metaphoric representation. Cognition, 60(2), 173–204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Norbury, C. F. (2005). The relationship between theory of mind and metaphor: Evidence from children with language impairment and autistic spectrum disorder. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23(3), 383–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. North West Regional Special Educational Needs Partnership, Great Britain, Department for Education and Skills. (2004). Children with autism: Strategies for accessing the curriculum, key stages 3 & 4. [S.l.]: North West Regional Special Educational Needs Partnership.Google Scholar
  54. Özçalışkan, Ş. (2005). On learning to draw the distinction between physical and metaphorical motion: Is metaphor an early emerging cognitive and linguistic capacity? Journal of Child Language, 32(2), 291–318.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Özçalışkan, Ş. (2007). Metaphors we move by: Children’s developing understanding of metaphorical motion in typologically distinct languages. Metaphor and Symbol, 22(2), 147–168. doi:10.1080/10926480701235429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Raven, J. C., Raven, J., & Court, J. H. (2003). Raven’s standard progressive matrices. San Antonio, TX: Pearson Assessments.Google Scholar
  57. Reyna, V. F., & Kiernan, B. (1995). Children’s memory and metaphorical interpretation. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10(4), 309–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reynolds, R. E., & Ortony, A. (1980). Some issues in the measurement of children’s comprehension of metaphorical language. Child Development, 51(4), 1110–1119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rundblad, G., & Annaz, D. (2010a). The atypical development of metaphor and metonymy comprehension in children with autism. Autism the International Journal of Research and Practice, 14(1), 29–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rundblad, G., & Annaz, D. (2010b). Development of metaphor and metonymy comprehension: Receptive vocabulary and conceptual knowledge. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 28(3), 547–563. doi:10.1348/026151009X454373.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rundblad, G., Dimitriou, D., & Van Herwegen, J. (in preparation). From impairment to cognitive delay: A study of figurative language in Williams syndrome highlighting methodological issues.Google Scholar
  62. Searle, J. (1979). Metaphor. In A. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and thought (pp. 92–123). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Sardinha, T. B. (2008). Metaphor probabilities in corpora. In S. Zanotto, L. Cameron, & M. Cavalcanti (Eds.), Confronting metaphor in use: An applied linguistic approach (pp. 127–148). Phildelphia, PA: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  64. Siltanen, S. A. (1989). Effects of three levels of context on children’s metaphor comprehension. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 150(2), 197–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Siltanen, S. A. (1990). Effects of explicitness on children’s metaphor comprehension. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 5(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stites, L. J., & Özçalışkan, Ş. (2013a). Developmental changes in children’s comprehension and explanation of spatial metaphors for time. Journal of Child Language, 40(5), 1123–1137. doi:10.1017/S0305000912000384.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Stites, L. J., & Özçalışkan, Ş. (2013b). Teasing apart the role of cognitive and verbal factors in children’s early metaphorical abilities. Metaphor and Symbol, 28(2), 116–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tager-Flusberg, H. (2003). Effects of language and communicative deficits on learning and behavior. In M. Prior (Ed.) (pp. 85–103). New York, NY US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  69. The New England Center for Children. (2013). Autism curriculum encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.necc.org/programs_services/ace-curriculum.asp.
  70. Van Herwegen, J., Dimitriou, D., & Rundblad, G. (2013). Development of novel metaphor and metonymy comprehension in typically developing children and Williams syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(4), 1300–1311. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2013.01.017.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vervaeke, J., & Kennedy, J. M. (1996). Metaphors in language and thought: Falsification and multiple meanings. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 11, 273–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Vervaeke, J., & Kennedy, J. M. (2004). Conceptual metaphor and abstract thought. Metaphor and Symbol, 19, 213–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Vosniadou, S. (1989). Context and the development of metaphor comprehension. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 4(3), 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Vosniadou, S., Ortony, A., Reynolds, R. E., & Wilson, P. T. (1984). Sources of difficulty in the young child’s understanding of metaphorical language. Child Development, 55(4), 1588–1606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Winner, E. (1988). The point of words: Children’s understanding of metaphor and irony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Winner, E., McCarthy, M., & Gardner, H. (1980). The ontogenesis of metaphor. In R. P. Honeck & R. R. Hoffman (Eds.), Cognition and figurative language. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  77. Winner, E., Rosenstiel, A. K., & Gardner, H. (1976). The development of metaphoric understanding. Developmental Psychology, 12(4), 289–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Witwer, A. N., & Lecavalier, L. (2008). Examining the validity of autism spectrum disorder subtypes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(9), 1611–1624.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations