Difficulties in processing humor have been associated with individuals with autism. The current study investigated whether humor comprehension and appreciation could be augmented in children with autism by providing contextual support suggesting that humor was to be expected. A verbally presented riddle task was used in which participants were assessed for their subjective ratings and comprehension of the materials. They were also filmed to record any smiling or laughing. Both riddles and control stimuli were presented with supporting verbal context and also without it. The results showed that (a) the greater subjective appreciation of riddles than of control stimuli was dependent on the provision of context for the participants with autism and that (b) context statistically equated these ratings of riddles between participants with autism and matched typically developing controls. However, context had no effect on comprehension or affective response. The results of the current study demonstrate that children with autism are, even in the most conservative interpretation, able to use verbal context to recognize verbal humor. This lays the foundation of possible interventions based on training sensitivity to context.
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