Advertisement

Personal Reference in Subjects with Autism

  • Paola PennisiEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)

Abstract

One of the roles of philosophy in the age of the third generation of cognitive scientists is to integrate data and theories from many different research fields (neuroscience, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, linguistics, etc…).The second step is to integrate them into the development of more general theoretical backgrounds in order to evaluate if the latter seems to be prolific for human thought. Recently, thanks to clinical pragmatics studies, we have a growing corpus of empirical data regarding pragmatic anomalies of subjects with autism.

In this study I will try to show the limits of the explanation of linguistic and pragmatic alterations in subjects with autism as a consequence of their deficit in Theory of Mind and I will try to show the advantages of a more holistic cognitive background such as that of Embodied Cognition (EC) theories.

My main focus will be on alterations regarding the fixation of personal reference in subjects with autism. I will analyse some studies conducted on typical subjects that investigate the embodiment processes at various levels during the use of personal reference. After, I will critically discuss some studies regarding the anomalies in the use of personal references in subjects with autism. Finally I will compare three kinds of explanations for the phenomenon: the echolalic one; the one regarding the deficit in ToM and a third one, proposed by me, that links these alterations to the higher level of performativity required by the fixation of personal reference in subjects with anomalies in the embodiment system, which seems to be the case for patients with autism.

This last thesis seems to take into account the complexity of situations in which subjects with autism show anomalies in the fixation of personal reference more than the two others considered. It, in fact, considers both the deficit in ToM and the deficit in executive functions and moreover, in doing that, it maintains a strong ecological perspective.

This study suggests that the fixation of personal reference in subjects with autism could receive some very useful theoretical tools from EC theories to be explained and understood.

Notes

Fixing of Personal Reference in Subjects with Autism

Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) seem to show impairments in embodiment. It has been shown that personal pronouns trigger different levels of embodiment during ecological interactions in typically developed (TD) subjects.

Despite the fact that a lot of studies mentioned the existence of some anomalies in the use of personal pronouns in subjects with ASD, scientific and philosophical literature on autism rarely related such anomalies to impairments in embodiment. This study tries to overcome this shortage suggesting that the anomalies in the use of personal pronouns found in subjects with ASD should be studied through the lens of Embodied Cognition (EC) theories.

In order to reach its goal, this study compares the literature on the use of personal pronouns in subjects with and without ASD and proposes an interpretation of subjects’ with ASD anomalies in the use of personal pronouns.

Re-analysing empirical data provided by other studies, this study posits to interpret them as follows: anomalies in the use of personal pronouns in subjects with ASD could be relate to the impairment in the use of the embodied ego-centric perspective. Their well-known deficit in executive functions makes difficult to shift from a deeply-embodied to a visuo-spatial perspective as TD subjects usually seem to do. According to this view, subjects with ASD seem to compensate their deficits by using more frequently than typically developed (TD) subjects a perspective that is more focused on visual-cues than on possibility-to-act cues. In other words, it looks like ASD subjects perceive some scene as non-agent bodies or as differently-acting bodies.

The paper ends with some reflections on the difference in fixing reference among subjects with ASD, TD subjects, robots and bees and on their relation with Konrad Lorenz’s concept of eurytopicity.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association.,& American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Anonymous, (2008), Barack Obama’s South Carolina Primary Speech. Transcript, New York Times, Jan., 26, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/26/us/politics/26text-obama.html
  3. Ariel, M. (2001). Accessibility theory: An overview. In T. Sanders, J. Schilperoord, & W. Spooren (Eds.), Text representation: Linguistics and psycholinguistics aspects (pp. 29–87). Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bara, B.G. (2010). Cognitive pragmatics: The mental processes of communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baron-Cohen, S. (2012). The essential difference. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  6. Barsalou, L. W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 59, 617–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bartak, L., Rutter, M., & Cox, A. (1975).A comparative study of infantile autism and specific developmental receptive language disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 126(2), 127–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bosch, G., & Bosch, G. (2012). Infantile Autism: A Clinical and Phenomenological-Anthropological Investigation Taking Language as the Guide. Berlin: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  9. Bosco, F. M., Parola, A., (2017), Schizophrenia, in Cummings, Louise. (2017). Research in Clinical Pragmatics. Springer Verlag., pp. 267–290.Google Scholar
  10. Brunyé, T. T., Ditman, T., Giles, G. E., Holmes, A., & Taylor, H. A. (2016). Mentally simulating narrative perspective is not universal or necessary for language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(10), 1592.Google Scholar
  11. Brunyé, T. T., Ditman, T., Mahoney, C. R., & Taylor, H. A. (2011). Better you than I: perspectives and emotion simulation during narrative comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 23(5), 659–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brunyé, T. T., Ditman, T., Mahoney, C. R., Augustyn, J. S., & Taylor, H. A. (2009). When you and I share perspectives pronouns modulate perspective taking during narrative comprehension. Psychological Science, 20(1), 27–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Capone, A. (2010). Barack Obama’s South Carolina speech. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(11), 2964–2977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Charney, R. (1980). Pronoun errors in autistic children: Support for a social explanation. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 15(1), 39–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark, A. (1998). Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. MIT press.Google Scholar
  16. Clark, A. (2008). Pressing the flesh: a tension in the study of the embodied, embedded mind?. Philosophy and phenomenological research, 76(1), 37–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Colle, L., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., & van der Lely, H. K. (2008). Narrative discourse in adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(1), 28–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cummings, L. [2009], Clinical Pragmatics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cummings, Louise. (2017). Research in Clinical Pragmatics. Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  20. Cummings, L., (2017b) Cognitive aspects of pragmatic disorders, in Cummings, Louise. (2017). Research in Clinical Pragmatics. Springer Verlag., pp. 587–616.Google Scholar
  21. Ditman, T., Brunyé, T. T., Mahoney, C. R., & Taylor, H. A. (2010). Simulating an enactment effect: Pronouns guide action simulation during narrative comprehension. Cognition, 115(1), 172–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1987). Grundriss der vergleichendenVerhaltensforsc- hung. München: Piper, trad. it. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1995). I fondamentidell’etologia. Milano: Adelphi.Google Scholar
  23. Eigsti, I. M. (2013). A review of embodiment in autism spectrum disorders, Frontiers in Phychology, 30.04, doi:  https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00224
  24. Falzone, A. (2012). Evoluzionismo e comunicazione: Nuove ipotesi sulla selezione naturale e i linguaggi animali e umani. Roma [etc.: Corisco.Google Scholar
  25. Fay, W. H. (1969). On the basis of autistic echolalia. Journal of Communication Disorders, 2(1), 38–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gianelli, C., Farnè, A., Salemme, R., Jeannerod, M., & Roy, A. C. (2011). The agent is right: When motor embodied cognition is space-dependent. PLoS One, 6(9), e25036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gold, K., Doniec, M., & Scassellati, B. (2007, July). Learning grounded semantics with word trees: Prepositions and pronouns. In Development and Learning, 2007.ICDL 2007. IEEE 6th International Conference on (pp. 25–30). IEEE.Google Scholar
  28. Grandin, T., &Panek, R. (2013). The autistic brain: Exploring the strength of a different kind of 692 mind. London: Rider Books.Google Scholar
  29. Grice, H. P., 1989. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Guidi, C. (2016). Embedded mind, embodied mind, enacted mind, extended mind: nuovi approcci allo studio della mente nelle scienze cognitive. Testo e Senso, (16).Google Scholar
  31. He, X., & Kaiser, E. (2012). Is there a difference between ‘You’and ‘I’? A psycholinguistic investigation of the Chinese reflexive ziji.University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 18(1), 12.Google Scholar
  32. Helt, M. S., Eigsti, I. M., Snyder, P. J., & Fein, D. A. (2010). Contagious yawning in autistic and typical development. Child development, 81(5), 1620–1631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hobson, R. P. (1990). On the origins of self and the case of autism. Development and Psychopathology, 2(02), 163–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hobson, R. P. (1993). Autism and the development of mind. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  35. Hobson, R. P., Lee, A., & Hobson, J. A. (2010). Personal pronouns and communicative engagement in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(6), 653–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Holgraves, T., Giordano, M. (2017), Parkinson’s disease without dementia, in Cummings, Louise. (2017). Research in Clinical Pragmatics. Springer Verlag., pp. 378–407.Google Scholar
  37. Holland, L., & Low, J. (2010). Do children with autism use inner speech and visuospatial resources 702 for the service of executive control? Evidence from suppression in dual tasks. British Journal 703 of Developmental Psychology, 28(Pt 2), 369–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jackson, P. L., Meltzoff, A. N., &Decety, J. (2006). Neural circuits involved in imitation and perspective-taking. Neuroimage, 31(1), 429–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact, in Pathology, pp. 217–250.Google Scholar
  40. Kasher, A. (1984). On the psychological reality of pragmatics. Journal of Pragmatics, 8(4), 539–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kasher, A. (1991a). On the pragmatic modules: A lecture. Journal of Pragmatics, 16(5), 381–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kasher, A. (1991b). Pragmatics and the modularity of mind. In S. Davis (Ed.), Pragmatics: A reader (pp. 567–582). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Kasher, A. (1994). Modular speech act theory: Programme and results. In S.L. Tsohatzidis (Ed.), Foundations of speech act theory: Philosophical and linguistic perspectives (pp. 312–322). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Lee, A., Hobson, R. P., & Chiat, S. (1994). I, you, me, and autism: An experimental study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 24(2), 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Libby, L. K., Shaeffer, E. M., & Eibach, R. P. (2009). Seeing meaning in action: a bidirectional link between visual perspective and action identification level. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138(4), 503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lorenz, K. (1959). Psychologie und Stammesgeschichte. In G. Heberer (Ed.), Evolution der Organismen(pp. 131–172). Stuttgart: Fischer.Google Scholar
  47. Loveland, K. A., & Landry, S. H. (1986). Joint attention and language in autism and developmental language delay. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 16(3), 335–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Markova, G., & Smolík, F. (2014). What do you think? The relationship between person reference and communication about the mind in toddlers. Social Development, 23(1), 61–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Minio-Paluello, I., Baron-Cohen, S., Avenanti, A., Walsh, V., &Aglioti, S. M. (2009).Absence of embodied empathy during pain observation in Asperger syndrome. Biological psychiatry, 65(1), 55–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Naigles, L. R., Cheng, M., Rattanasone, N. X., Tek, S., Khetrapal, N., Fein, D., & Demuth, K. (2016). “You’re telling me!” The prevalence and predictors of pronoun reversals in children with autism spectrum disorders and typical development. Research in autism spectrum disorders, 27, 11–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Naigles, L. R., Cheng, M., Rattanasone, N. X., Tek, S., Khetrapal, N., Fein, D., & Demuth, K. (2016b). “You’re telling me!” The prevalence and predictors of pronoun reversals in children with autism spectrum disorders and typical development. Research in autism spectrum disorders, 27, 11–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Novogrodsky, R. (2013). Subject pronoun use by children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Clinical linguistics & phonetics, 27(2), 85–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Novogrodsky, R., & Edelson, L. R. (2016). Ambiguous pronoun use in narratives of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 32(2), 241–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Papeo, L., Corradi-Dell’Acqua, C., & Rumiati, R. I. (2011). “She” is not like “I”: the tie between language and action is in our imagination. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(12), 3939–3948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Park, C. C. (1967). The siege. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  56. Pennisi, A. (2016). Evolution and Perspectives of EmbodiedCognition. The Brain as a Tenant of the Body. Reti, saperi, linguaggi, 3(1), 179–201.Google Scholar
  57. Pennisi, A., & Falzone, A. (2016). Darwinian biolinguistics: Theory and history of a naturalistic philosophy of language and pragmatics.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pennisi, P. (2016a). A hypothesis on the deficit of lipreading during linguistic perception in subjects with autism: observations from robotic interactions. RivistaItaliana di Filosofia del Linguaggio.Google Scholar
  59. Pennisi, P. (2016b). Il linguaggiodell’autismo: Studisullacomunicazionesilenziosa e la pragmaticadelle parole. Bologna: Societàeditrice Il mulino.Google Scholar
  60. Pennisi, P. (2016c). Inferential Abilities and Pragmatic Deficits in Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In Pragmemes and Theories of Language Use (pp. 749–768). Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  61. Perovic, A., Modyanova, N., & Wexler, K. (2013). Comprehension of reflexive and personal pronouns in children with autism: A syntactic or pragmatic deficit? Applied Psycholinguistics, 34(04), 813–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Platek, S. M., Critton, S. R., Myers, T. E., & Gallup, G. G. (2003). Contagious yawning: the role of self-awareness and mental state attribution. Cognitive Brain Research, 17(2), 223–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ricard, M., Girouard, P. C., & Decarie, T. G. (1999). Personal pronouns and perspective taking in toddlers. Journal of Child Language, 26(03), 681–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Robins, D. L., Casagrande, K., Barton, M., Chen, C. M. A., Dumont-Mathieu, T., & Fein, D. (2014). Validation of the modified checklist for autism in toddlers, revised with follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F). Pediatrics, 133(1), 37–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rosch, E., Varela, F., & Thompson, E. (1991). The embodied mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience.Google Scholar
  66. Rowlands, M. (2010). The new science of the mind: From extended mind to embodied phenomenology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sato, M., & Bergen, B. K. (2013). The case of the missing pronouns: Does mentally simulated perspective play a functional role in the comprehension of person? Cognition, 127(3), 361–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Senju, A., Maeda, M., Kikuchi, Y., Hasegawa, T., Tojo, Y., &Osanai, H. (2007). Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Biology letters, 3(6), 706–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. ([1986] 1995). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  70. Sutera, S., Pandey, J., Esser, E. L., Rosenthal, M. A., Wilson, L. B., Barton, M., … & Fein, D. (2007). Predictors of optimal outcome in toddlers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 37(1), 98–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The Embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  72. Walker, E., Bergen, B., & Núñez, R. (2013). Later events lie behind her, but not behind you: Compatibility effects for temporal sequences along the sagittal axis depend on perspective. In CogSci.Google Scholar
  73. Williams, D. (1998). Il mio e loro autismo: Itinerario tra le ombre e i colori dell’ultima frontiera. Roma: Armando. Translation of: Williams, D., (1996). Autism – an inside-out approach: An innovative look at the mechanics of “autism” and its developmental “cousins”. London: Kingsley.Google Scholar
  74. Wilson, C. E., Happé, F., Wheelwright, S. J., Ecker, C., Lombardo, M. V., Johnston, P., … & Chakrabarti, B. (2014). The Neuropsychology of Male Adults With High-Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Autism Research, 7(5), 568–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistic Centre of Messina University (CLAM)MessinaItaly

Personalised recommendations