“Social and Pragmatic Deficits in Autism: Cognitive or Affective?”

University College, London.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.34). 10/1988; 18(3):379-402. DOI: 10.1007/BF02212194
Source: PubMed


Autism is characterized by a chronic, severe impairment in social relations. Recent studies of language in autism also show pervasive deficits in pragmatics. We assume, uncontroversially, that these two deficits are linked, since pragmatics is part of social competence. This paper reviews the literature describing these deficits, and then considers two different psychological theories of these phenomena: the Affective theory and the Cognitive theory. Although the Affective theory makes better sense of the results from emotional recognition tasks, the Cognitive theory predicts the particular pattern of impaired and unimpaired social skills in autism, as well as the pragmatic deficits. These two theories might usefully be integrated in the future.

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Available from: Simon Baron-Cohen
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    • "Autism is a condition that is primarily characterized by impairment in social interaction. One notable feature of individuals with autism is a difficulty, at least in some contexts, in attributing mental states to others (Baron-Cohen 1988;Castelli et al. 2002;Frith 1989). Notably, fMRI studies indicate that reduced activity in the mirror neuron areas in children with autism correlates with the severity of the condition (Dapretto et al. 2006). "
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    • "In comparison, children later diagnosed with ASD have an observed lack of interest in faces, as evident in the absence of gaze fixation and eye contact (Dalton et al., 2005; Folstein & Rosen- Sheidley, 2001; Schultz, 2005). As a result, children with ASD are described as looking through people, rather than at people; therefore lacking the interpersonal contact, joint attention, and understanding associated with the development of language pragmatics (Baron-Cohen, 1988; Mundy et al., 1990). "
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    • "Turning now to pathology, typical characteristics of children with HFA include abnormal communication and deviant pragmatics (see Baron-Cohen 1988; Firth 1989; and Tager-Flusberg 1989 for reviews). In contrast, although all children with SLI show severe grammatical impairments, there are SLI subgroups showing intact pragmatics (Friedmann & Novogrodsky 2008; 2011, van der Lely 1998). "

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