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Poster B113

Cross-modal examinations of narrative structural processing in autistic individuals

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Emily Coderre1 (, Carolyn D'Auria1, Emily Zane2, Neil Cohn3, Emily Booth2, Holly Chappell2, Caitlyn Soong2, Gwendolyn Reichert1; 1University of Vermont, 2James Madison University, 3Tilburg University

Understanding the structure, or narrative arc, of a story is critical for narrative comprehension, whether a narrative is presented verbally (e.g., written or spoken stories) or pictorially (e.g., comics). Our previous work finds that autistic adults show reduced sensitivity to narrative structure in comics, which could help explain oft-reported differences in narrative comprehension by autistic individuals. Here, we extend that work to explore structural processing in written and pictorial narratives and compare between modalities. In an electroencephalography (EEG) study with autistic and non-autistic adults, we manipulated the presence of narrative grammar in comics and written stories. “Structural-only” narratives contained narrative structure but no comprehensible meaning. These were created by shuffling sentences (in written narratives) or comic panels (in visual narratives) across stories but maintaining their relative positions. “Scrambled” narratives were created by shuffling sentences/panels across stories and positions, thus eliminating both structure and meaning. Preliminary analyses (n=8) showed effects of condition in both modalities, with scrambled conditions eliciting more negative amplitudes than structural-only conditions. Written narratives also showed interactions of condition with level of autistic traits as measured by the Autism Quotient (AQ) questionnaire. Interestingly, the directionality of this effect was opposite to our previous findings on comics processing: in written stories, higher levels of autistic traits were associated with larger amplitude differences between scrambled and structural-only conditions. These preliminary data suggest that autism affects the processing of narrative grammar, which could contribute to narrative comprehension differences in this population.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax


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