Exploring lexical alignment in typically developing chidren and children with Autisim Spectrum Disorder
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Abstract We report an experiment that examined whether children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and typically developing children repeat the same term previously used by their conversational partner (both preferred and alternative terms). We examined if there was a difference between children with ASD and typically developing children, who were matched pairwise on verbal age and chronological age, in the extent of lexical alignment. We found that children were more likely to say a preferred term after hearing the experimenter say a preferred term than after hearing the alternative term. Furthermore children were more likely to say the alternative term after hearing the researcher say the alternative terms than when they heard the alternative term, while naming objects on pictures cards during a snap game. These results showed that children had a strong tendency to lexically align and this tendency was strong enough to overrule preferences for word choice. Additionally there was no difference in the extent to which children with ASD and typically developing children aligned, despite differences in ability of reasoning about other people’s knowledge intentions and beliefs (ToM). These results suggest that lexical alignment in children may be mainly underpinned by unmediated mechanisms that are automatic and do no rely on ToM.