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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: Speech-language practitioners recognise the importance of metapragmatic (MP) ability (the ability to explicitly reflect on pragmatic rules) in therapy for children with pragmatic and social communication difficulties. There is inconclusive evidence in the literature regarding both the development of metapragmatic ability in children with typical language and the expected levels of explicitation (reflection on pragmatic behaviours) in children's metapragmatic descriptions. The main purposes of this study were to investigate the reliability of a novel task of metapragmatic awareness (the Assessment of Metapragmatics or AMP) and to investigate typical developmental trends of metapragmatic ability and metapragmatic explicitation using the AMP task. Main results: Analysis of pooled data from 40 children with typical language development aged between six and eleven years and 48 children with communication impairments indicated that the AMP task had satisfactory internal consistency and inter-rater reliability. For children with typical language development, there was no relationship between gender and metapragmatic ability as measured by AMP. There was a linear relationship between age and AMP task scores and between age and explicitation. The scoring system used in the AMP task was sensitive to age-related changes in metapragmatic ability in a normative sample. The sophistication of metapragmatic awareness (explicitation) also increased with age. At age six years, children demonstrated metapragmatic awareness in their responses to 74% of AMP stimuli items; this increased to 95% of AMP items at ages 10-11 years. Conclusions: The AMP is a reliable measure of development in MP explicitation for children with satisfactory face validity in terms of acceptability to communication professionals and to child participants. From age six, children have some awareness of pragmatic acts and can identify and relate linguistic cues or pragmatic rules in atypical interactions of the type depicted in the AMP. The AMP task solicited significantly increased frequency of use of higher levels of MP explication beyond seven years of age in children with typical language development. Learning outcomes: Readers will explain the development, reliability and structure of a novel task that measures the ability of a child to understand and explain pragmatic rules. Readers will also identify age related changes in this ability in a sample of typically developing child participants.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014 · Journal of Communication Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: The successful comprehension of a utility conditional (i.e., an "if p, then q" statement where p and/or q is valued by one or more agents) requires the construction of a mental representation of the situation described by that conditional and integration of this representation with prior context. In an eye-tracking experiment, we examined the time course of integrating conditional utility information into the broader discourse model. Specifically, the experiment determined whether readers were sensitive, during rapid heuristic processing, to the congruency between the utility of the consequent clause of a conditional (positive or negative) and a reader's subjective expectations based on prior context. On a number of eye-tracking measures we found that readers were sensitive to conditional utility-conditionals for which the consequent utility mismatched the utility that would be anticipated on the basis of prior context resulted in processing disruption. Crucially, this sensitivity emerged on measures that are accepted to indicate early processing within the language comprehension system and suggests that the evaluation of a conditional's utility informs the early stages of conditional processing.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
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    ABSTRACT: Retrieval orientation refers to a process where participants strategically alter how a memory cue is processed in response to different task demands. In the present study we explored whether retrieval orientation is influenced by knowing when an old stimulus was first encoded. Participants completed separate remember/know test blocks for old items from a recent delay (40 min) and old items from a remote delay (48 h). Manipulations at encoding ensured that performance levels were matched between these two blocks, thus avoiding confounds with differences in retrieval effort. Importantly, a third test block comprised old items from both delays randomly intermixed. As the nature of the old items varies unpredictably in the mixed block, it should not be possibly to adopt a specific retrieval orientation and the mixed block therefore acts as a control condition. Participants saw the words “mixed,” “recent” or “remote” prior to each test block. Comparing ERPs from the recent and remote blocks permitted an investigation of whether participants alter their retrieval orientation in response to the specific length of the retention interval. Comparing ERPs from the pure (recent and remote) test blocks to ERPs from the mixed block permitted an investigation of whether delay information per se led to differences in retrieval strategy. Analysis of the ERP data found no differences between the recent and remote blocks. However, ERPs from these pure blocks were significantly less positive than ERPs from the mixed block from 200 ms towards the end of the epoch. The findings suggest that the delay information was useful in a general sense and encouraged retrieval strategies distinct from those engaged in the mixed block. We speculate that such strategies might relate to whether or not the retrieval search is specific and constrained and/or whether processes that serve to reinstate the original encoding context are engaged.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Brain and Cognition
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