Inhibitory control and lexical alignment in children with an autism spectrum disorder

Zoe Hopkins, Nicola Yuill, Holly Branigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Two experiments investigated the contribution of conflict inhibition to pragmatic deficits in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Typical adults’ tendency to re-use interlocutors’referential choices (lexical alignment) implicates communicative perspective-taking, which is regulated by conflict inhibition. We examined whether children with ASD spontaneously lexically aligned, and whether conflict inhibition mediated alignment.Methods: Children with ASD and chronological- and verbal-age-matched typically-developing controls played a picture-naming game. We manipulated whether the experimenter used a preferred or dispreferred name for each picture, and examined whether children subsequently used the same name.Results: Children with ASD spontaneously lexically aligned, to the same extent as typically-developing controls. Alignment was unrelated to conflict inhibition in both groups.Conclusions: Children with ASD’s referential communication is robust to impairments in conflict inhibition under some circumstances. Their pragmatic deficits may be mitigated in a highly structured interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1165
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number10
Early online date24 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • alignment
  • inhibitory control
  • perspective-taking

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