Time Course of Metaphor Comprehension in the Visual World

Abstract

To investigate the real time processing of metaphoric adjectives, we measured participants looking behavior as they listened to sentences such as The little boy was shocked as a result of the [electrical socket/report card] in the context of a display with four images. Displays included two Unrelated pictures, a Literal picture consistent with the literal interpretation of the adjective (an electrical socket), and a Metaphor picture consistent with the metaphorical interpretation (a report card). Sentences were divided into those with a preferred literal versus metaphorical reading of the adjective, and those preferences were predictive of looking behavior during the study. During the second before the onset of the disambiguating word, participants were more likely to fixate the image consistent with the preferred interpretation (Literal for Literal Biased and Metaphor for Metaphor Biased sentences). Results argue against models of metaphor comprehension that posit parallel activation of literal and metaphoric meaning.


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