The Effect of Ironic versus Literal Language and Autistic Traits on Measures of Language Processing

Jaclyn Opie

This experiment uses eyetracking during reading to addresses two major questions. The first question investigates how ironic or literal criticism in a sentence affects reading times. When the criticism used in a sentence is ironic, readers' early processing of that word is facilitated compared to when the criticism is literal. The second question is how these language processing times differ based on the other character's reaction to the criticism. Processing is initially facilitated for the ironic criticism words when the character expresses being hurt by this criticism. However, in later reading time measures, processing is facilitated for the ironic criticism condition when the character expresses being amused by this criticism. This result supports a two-stage model of processing ironic language. Participants' scores on an autistic trait questionnaire are analyzed along with these reading time measures, showing a relationship between higher degree of autistic traits and greater difficulty processing ironic language.




Matthew Lowder