Spontaneous irony in post-stroke individuals




Pinch, Diane Kathleen

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This study examines spontaneous irony in elicited conversations between dyads assigned to three groups: left-hemisphere-damaged (LHD), right-hemisphere-damaged (RHD), and non-hemisphere-damaged (NHD). The conversational partners in all three groups were non-hemisphere-damaged. Subjects were also administered a battery of neuropsychological tests designed to assess functions hypothesized to underlie the successful communication of irony and sarcasm (i.e., recognition of auditory patterns and facial displays conveying emotions, speed of processing, and comprehension of nonliteral language). Spontaneous irony involves a set of utterances in conversation that is not meant to be interpreted literally and can include such devices as irony, sarcasm, punning, and hyperbole. The communication of spontaneous irony in normal speakers is accomplished through a quick, tight coordination of behavioural and/or prosodic features. For a variety of reasons this coordination may break down when one of the speakers has brain damage. This study found that the rate of production of irony was significantly less in the two clinical groups as compared to the control group with no significant difference between the LHD and RHD groups. There was no significant difference amongst the groups in terms of success of communication; all three had a success rate of approximately 90 per cent. Individual profiles were examined to determine whether any patterns emerged in the test results, however, no pattern unique to the clinical subjects with the lowest rates of irony emerged. When the conversations were examined in more detail, it was found that the NHD partners in the clinical groups produced a significantly lower rate of irony than the NHD partners in the control group. The rate was also significantly lower than the rate of irony of the clinical subjects. These results suggest that the NHD partners adjust their content when their partners have had brain damage. Part of this adjustment may be due to the accommodation, described in previous literature, that occurs in interactions between disabled and nondisabled individuals. However, further exploration suggests that in addition to this overall accommodation there may be an adjustment that is dependent on whether the partner has had left or right hemisphere damage. Features present in the LHD group were pauses and paraphasias leading to disruptions in turntaking. These were not present in the RHD group which consisted of fluent speakers with no disruptions in turntaking. However, a reduction in discourse-oriented facial displays and prosodic features and a tendency toward tangential speech may act to change the quality of conversations in the RHD group. These aspects would have to be studied objectively in a future study to determine whether they were upheld.



Communication, Psychological aspects