Structure-Mapping in Metaphor Comprehension
Article first published online: 19 SEP 2011
Copyright © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 35, Issue 8, pages 1456–1488, November/December 2011
How to Cite
Wolff, P. and Gentner, D. (2011), Structure-Mapping in Metaphor Comprehension. Cognitive Science, 35: 1456–1488. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01194.x
- Issue published online: 2 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 19 SEP 2011
- Received 6 April 2009; received in revised form 12 January 2011; accepted 19 January 2011
- Structural alignment;
- Career of metaphor;
- Embodied metaphor
Metaphor has a double life. It can be described as a directional process in which a stable, familiar base domain provides inferential structure to a less clearly specified target. But metaphor is also described as a process of finding commonalities, an inherently symmetric process. In this second view, both concepts may be altered by the metaphorical comparison. Whereas most theories of metaphor capture one of these aspects, we offer a model based on structure-mapping that captures both sides of metaphor processing. This predicts (a) an initial processing stage of symmetric alignment; and (b) a later directional phase in which inferences are projected to the target. To test these claims, we collected comprehensibility judgments for forward (e.g., “A rumor is a virus”) and reversed (“A virus is a rumor”) metaphors at early and late stages of processing, using a deadline procedure. We found an advantage for the forward direction late in processing, but no directional preference early in processing. Implications for metaphor theory are discussed.