Maria's main research interest lies in pragmatic language development, with a particular focus on non-literal language comprehension in school-aged children. She is currently examining the relationship between irony interpretation and other cognitive skills, such as theory-of-mind, executive functions, structural language and non-verbal reasoning.
Ironic versus non-ironic relevance inferencing: a comparison of typical children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
School of Psychology Studentship
Publications and conference presentations
- 2nd Lancaster International Conference on Infant and Early Child Development August 2017
"'Why does mummy say such things?'- Irony comprehension and theory of mind in four-year-olds"; Maria Zajaczkowska and Natalia Banasik
Zaj?czkowska, M. (2017). Influence of Voice Intonation on Understanding Irony by Polish-Speaking Preschool Children. Psychology of Language and Communication, 20. doi:10.1515/plc-2016-0017
Abstract | View in KAR | View Full Text
The main aim of the presented study was to investigate the influence of voice intonation on the comprehension of ironic utterances in 4- to 6-year-old Polish-speaking children. 83 preschool children were tested with the Irony Comprehension Task (Banasik & Bokus, 2012). In the Irony Comprehension Task, children are presented with stories in which ironic utterances were prerecorded and read by professional speakers using an ironic intonation. Half of the subjects performed the regular Irony Comprehension Task while the other half were given a modified version of the Irony Comprehension Task (ironic content was uttered using a non-ironic intonation). Results indicate that children from the ironic intonation group scored higher on the Irony Comprehension Task than children who heard ironic statements uttered using a neutral voice. Ironic voice intonation appeared to be a helpful cue to irony comprehension.
Zajaczkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Kim, C. (2019). When children use shared knowledge to interpret irony. In Child Language Symposium. Sheffield, UK. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/sheffield.ac.uk/clshef2019/home
Zajaczkowska, M., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2019). Cognitive flexibility helps children understand ironic intent. In Child Language Symposium. Sheffield, UK.
Zaj?czkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Williams, D. (2018). Cognitive underpinnings of irony understanding in children. In 10th Dubrovnik conference on cognitive science: communication, pragmatics and Theory of Mind.. Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Zajaczkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Williams, D. (2018). Cognitive underpinnings of irony understanding in children. In Social Communication Across the Lifespan. Canterbury, Kent. Retrieved from https://www.kent.ac.uk/psychology/downloads/CogSoCoAGEConference.pdf
Abstract | View in KAR
We examined the relationship between irony interpretation and Theory of Mind
measures (Strange Stories, Happé, 1994) and the Theory of Mind Inventory (ToMI,
Hutchins et al., 2012), as well as working memory, set shifting and inhibitory
control, whilst controlling for non-verbal IQ. We also examined different types of
irony interpretation. All previous studies have used simple forms of irony, where
the hearer can see from the real world context that the literal meaning cannot be
true (see (1)). We included a complex irony condition, where the non-literal
interpretation cannot be inferred from the visual context (see (2)).
(1) Tom and Sally wanted to go for a picnic. It has just started to rain. Sally: It's a
perfect day for a picnic.
(2) Tom: I have been invited to a party by the most beautiful girl in my class.
Sally: Yeah, and I have been invited to the Queen's party.
We presented children (N=51; aged 6;01 - 9;01) with 5 videos, in both simple and
complex irony conditions. After each short dialogue as in (1) and (2), participants
answered an open-ended question, then a forced-choice (out of three) question
about the speakers meaning. Children selected above chance for simple irony (M
= 76% correct) but significantly below chance for complex (M = 25% correct) irony.
Regression analyses showed that when controlling for age, nonverbal IQ and
formal language, ToM measures related to simple irony interpretation. There was
no relationship found between the EF and ToM measures and complex irony