Understanding nonliteral language requires inferencing ability and is an important but complex aspect of social interaction, involving cognitive (e.g., theory of mind, executive function) as well as language skill, areas in which many deaf individuals struggle. This study examined comprehension of metaphor and sarcasm, assessing the contributions of hearing status, inferencing ability, executive function (verbal short-term/working memory capacity), and deaf individuals’ communication skills (spoken versus signed language, cochlear implant use). Deaf and hearing college students completed a multiple-choice metaphor comprehension task and inferencing tasks that included both social-emotional (i.e., theory of mind) and neutral inferences, as well as short-term memory span and working memory tasks. Results indicated the hearing students to have better comprehension of nonliteral language and the ability to make social-emotional inferences, as well as greater memory capacity. Deaf students evidenced strong relationships among inferential comprehension, communication skills, and memory capacity, with substantial proportions of the variance in understanding of metaphor and sarcasm accounted for by these variables. The results of this study enhance understanding of the language and cognitive skills underlying figurative language comprehension and theory of mind and have implications for the social functioning of deaf individuals.
|Number of pages||26|
|Journal||Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2020|