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Cogn Neuropsychiatry. 2003 Nov;8(4):243-60.

Pragmatic language interpretation after closed head injury: relationship to executive functioning.

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  • 1University College London, UK.



Closed head injury is associated with impairment in a range of executive skills, and with everyday difficulties in social interactions. Comprehension of pragmatic language plays an important role in social interactions. The present study was designed to examine performance on a task involving pragmatic judgement in people who had suffered closed head injury (CHI), and the relationship between this and any impairments in executive skills.


Participants with CHI were compared to a matched healthy control group on a pragmatic inference task consisting of a series of brief vignettes. Participants made judgements about alternative responses in relation to social appropriateness/skill, and carried out several nonsocial executive tasks thought to play a role in pragmatic judgement.


The CHI group was poorer than the control group on the pragmatic measure, showing less discrimination than the control group between direct, literal interpretations and correct, indirect interpretations. They also performed more poorly on the nonsocial executive measures. Regression analysis showed an association between pragmatic performance and one of the executive tasks, a measure of inhibition.


More work is needed to explore further the nature of any relationship between pragmatic judgement and executive skills.

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