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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(6):906-16.

Comprehension of humor in primary agenesis of the corpus callosum.

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1
The Travis Research Institute, Center for Biopsychosocial Research, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, 180 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA. wsbrown@fuller.edu

Abstract

Individuals with agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC) can, in some cases, perform normally on standardized intelligence tests. Nevertheless, recent studies suggest that individuals with ACC and normal IQ scores have deficits in domains of fluid and social intelligence. Anecdotal reports from families suggest diminished appreciation of the subtleties of social interactions, and deficits in the comprehension of jokes and stories. In this research, both the cartoon and narrative joke subtests of a humor test (developed by Brownell et al. [Brownell, H., Michel, D., Powelson, J., & Gardner, H. (1983). Surprise but not coherence: sensitivity to verbal humor in right-hemisphere patients. Brain and language, 18(1), 20-27] and Bihrle et al. [Bihrle, A. M., Brownell, H. H., Powelson, J. A., & Gardner, H. (1986). Comprehension of humorous and non-humorous materials by left and right brain-damaged patients. Brain and Cognition, 5(4), 399-411]) were given to 16 adults with complete ACC (all with IQs>80) and 31 controls of similar age and IQ. Individuals with ACC performed worse than controls on the narrative joke subtest (p<.025) when VIQ was controlled. However, on the cartoon subtest the two groups were not significantly different. Covarying age, forms of IQ, narrative memory, set-switching, and literal language comprehension did not substantially alter the group difference. However, covarying comprehension of nonliteral language and proverbs eliminated the difference, suggesting a common origin for the comprehension of jokes, nonliteral language, and proverbs, most likely related to capacity for understanding second-order meanings.

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