Mixing Metaphors in the Cerebral Hemispheres: What Happens When Careers Collide?

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Abstract

Are processes of figurative comparison and figurative categorization different? An experiment combining alternative-sense and matched-sense metaphor priming with a divided visual field assessment technique sought to isolate processes of comparison and categorization in the 2 cerebral hemispheres. For target metaphors presented in the right visual field/left cerebral hemisphere (RVF/LH), only matched-sense primes were facilitative. Literal primes and alternative-sense primes had no effect on comprehension time compared to the unprimed baseline. The effects of matched-sense primes were additive with the rated conventionality of the targets. For target metaphors presented to the left visual field/right cerebral hemisphere (LVF/RH), matched-sense primes were again additively facilitative. However, alternative-sense primes, though facilitative overall, seemed to eliminate the preexisting advantages of conventional target metaphor senses in the LVF/RH in favor of metaphoric senses similar to those of the primes. These findings are consistent with tightly controlled categorical coding in the LH and coarse, flexible, context-dependent coding in the RH.

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