Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 08 October 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00691

Children's processing of emotion in ironic language

  • Language Processing Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

In the present study we addressed two novel questions: (1) is children's irony appreciation and processing related to their empathy skills? and (2) is children's processing of a speaker's ironic meaning best explained by a modular or interactive theory? Participants were thirty-one 8- and 9-year-olds children. We used a variant of the visual world paradigm to assess children's processing of ironic and literal evaluative remarks; in this paradigm children's cognition is revealed through their actions and eye gaze. Results in this paradigm showed that children's irony appreciation and processing were correlated with their empathy development, suggesting that empathy or emotional perspective taking may be important for development of irony comprehension. Further, children's processing of irony was consistent with an interactive framework, in which children consider ironic meanings in the earliest moments, as speech unfolds. These results provide important new insights about development of this complex aspect of emotion recognition.

Keywords: verbal irony, eye gaze, empathy, children, speaker intent

Citation: Nicholson A, Whalen JM and Pexman PM (2013) Children's processing of emotion in ironic language. Front. Psychol. 4:691. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00691

Received: 18 July 2013; Paper pending published: 25 August 2013;
Accepted: 12 September 2013; Published online: 08 October 2013.

Edited by:

Elisabet Serrat, Universitat de Girona, Spain

Reviewed by:

Sebastian B. Gaigg, City University London, UK
Ruth Ford, Griffith University, Australia

Copyright © 2013 Nicholson, Whalen and Pexman. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Penny M. Pexman, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N1N4, Canada e-mail: pexman@ucalgary.ca