When the Creampuff beat the boxer: Working memory, cost, and function in reading metaphoric reference

Amit Almor, Sudha Arunachalam, Brent Strickland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Following Almor's (1999) cost-function analysis of referential processing, we hypothesized that reading times of metaphoric anaphors are affected by readers' working memory ability and reflect a balance between discourse function and processing cost. The results from 2 self-paced reading experiments supported this hypothesis. Low-span participants always read sentences with metaphoric anaphors slower than sentences with literal anaphors. In contrast, high-span participants did not take longer to read sentences with metaphoric anaphors than those with literal anaphors when the preceding context activated enough information to facilitate reference resolution. However, when the context activated so much information that the metaphor's function was obviated, high-span readers suffered and again read sentences with metaphoric anaphors more slowly than sentences with literal anaphors. These results show that, as with other types of anaphors, processing metaphoric anaphors is affected by working memory performance, and that the balance between processing cost and discourse function varies with working memory ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-193
Number of pages25
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 20 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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