Literal and figurative interpretations are computed in equal time

Brian McElree, Johanna Nordlie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The time courses for constructing literal and figurative interpretations of simple propositions were measured with the response signal, speed-accuracy tradeoff procedure. No differences were found in comprehension speed for literal and figurative strings in a task that required judging whether a string of words was meaningful. Likewise, no differences were found in processing speed for nonsense and figurative strings in a task that required judging whether a string of words was literally true. Figurative strings were less likely to be judged meaningful than were literal strings and less likely to be rejected as literally true than were nonsense strings. The absence of time-course differences is inconsistent with approaches to figurative processing that contend that a figurative interpretation is computed after an anomalous literal interpretation. The time-course profiles suggest that literal and figurative interpretations are computed in equal time but that the meaning of the latter is less constrained than that of the former.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-494
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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