Hint comprehension following acquired brain injury (Cordonier et al., 2023)
Purpose: Difficulties understanding nonliteral language (especially hints) are frequently reported following acquired brain injury (ABI). Several cognitive mechanisms, such as context processing, executive functions, and theory of mind (ToM), may underlie these disorders. However, their role remains controversial, mainly because of the characteristic heterogeneity of this population. Therefore, our study aimed to identify cognitive-pragmatic profiles in individuals with ABI.
Method: A new task of hint comprehension, manipulating executive demand, markers of hints, and ToM and neuropsychological tests were administered to 33 participants with frontal ABI and 33 control participants. Cluster analysis, a method sensitive to profile heterogeneity, was applied and coupled with error analysis.
Results: We highlighted two cognitive-pragmatic profiles. One subgroup of participants with ABI exhibited contextual insensitivity, leading them to infer the utterance meaning based on linguistic decoding alone—literal meaning. This difficulty in understanding hints was associated with deficits in working memory, inhibition, and ToM. The second subgroup of participants with ABI showed difficulty with literal statements, associated with impaired inhibition and ToM. In addition, the two subgroups differed only on the ToM task. This result suggests that various types of ToM deficit (misunderstanding vs. incorrect attribution of mental states) could contribute to the variability of the pragmatic profiles observed (difficulties in interpreting hints vs. literal statements).
Conclusion: The experimental design adopted in this study provides valuable insight into the explanatory hypotheses of nonliteral language comprehension disorders and has important clinical implications.
Supplemental Material S1. Comparison of the HC, RHD, and TBI participants.
Cordonier, N., Fossard, M., Tillé, Y., & Champagne-Lavau, M. (2023). Exploring cognitive-pragmatic heterogeneity following acquired brain injury: A cluster analysis of hint comprehension. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_AJSLP-22-00389