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.
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Although the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association 2013a) no longer contains the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, instead folding the diagnoses under the umbrella diagnosis of ASD (American Psychiatric Association 2013b), we will use the term here in the interest of accurately summarizing the extant literature.
Conceptual metaphors are customarily expressed in italicized capital letters.
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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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Olofson, E.L., Casey, D., Oluyedun, O.A. et al. Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder Comprehend Lexicalized and Novel Primary Conceptual Metaphors. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 2568–2583 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2129-3
- Conceptual metaphor