Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Speech Pathology and Audiology

First Advisor

Duff, Melissa

First Committee Member

Delsandro, Elizabeth

Second Committee Member

Zebrowski, Patricia


Previous research into the communication of people with amnesia found that they, and their familiar communication partners, used verbal play less frequently than pairs without amnesia (Duff et al., 2009). This study attempts to analyze an additional dimension of playful language use: partner response to verbal play. A rubric was developed to rate verbal play response on a 0-5 scale. The rubric was used to rate partner response in four communication pairs containing one partner with amnesia and one familiar communication partner; and four healthy pairs for comparison. The responses of the experimenter participating in the conversations were also rated. While the study found no differences between the two groups in terms of the familiar communication partners or the experimenter, the participants with amnesia received significantly lower overall scores than participants without amnesia. The participants with amnesia also produced a significantly lower proportion of responses with multiple turns than did healthy participants. This result adds to the body of evidence that memory disorders can affect social interaction. The rubric developed for this study suggests a possible direction for including partner response in analyses of conversational discourse.

Public Abstract

Previous research has found that amnesia affects not only memory, but also certain aspects of communication. One study found that people with amnesia use less verbal play – joking, metaphor, and other playful use of language – than people who do not have amnesia (Duff et al., 2009). This study follows up on that research by examining how participants’ communication partners respond when they initiate verbal play. Using a rating scale to score responsiveness, the current study shows that people with amnesia respond less than people with normal memory to their partners’ verbal play. They are more likely to not respond at all, and less likely to respond with extended playful conversations. This result adds a new dimension to previous research into how people with amnesia communicate. It shows that memory impairment not only reduces how much someone uses playful language, but also how they respond to playful language in their communication partners.


publicabstract, communication, declarative memory, hippocampal amnesia, humor, social interaction, verbal play


vii, 60 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 54-60).


Copyright 2015 Margaret Miller