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Conceptual Metaphors and


Figurative Language
Interpretation: Food for
Thought?

Article in Journal of Memory and Language August 1996


DOI: 10.1006/jmla.1996.0029

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JOURNAL OF MEMORY AND LANGUAGE 35, 544565 (1996)
ARTICLE NO. 0029

Conceptual Metaphors and Figurative Language Interpretation:


Food for Thought?

MATTHEW S. MCGLONE
Lafayette College

How do people interpret metaphors such as The lecture was a three-course meal? Lakoff
(1993) has proposed that figurative expressions are interpreted as instantiations of deep conceptual
metaphors, such as IDEAS ARE FOOD. In contrast, Glucksberg (1991) has proposed that
metaphors are interpreted as assertions of the topics (e.g., lecture) membership in an attributive
category exemplified by the vehicle (e.g., three-course meal). Four experiments that test the
predictions of the two views are reported. The results suggest that reference to a conceptual
metaphor is not the modal strategy that people use when paraphrasing metaphors (Experiments
1 and 2), rating the similarity between metaphors (Experiment 3), or retrieving metaphors from
memory (Experiment 4). In each of these situations, participants relied primarily on the stereotypi-
cal properties of the vehicle concept. The results from these experiments are consistent with
Glucksbergs (1991) attributive categorization proposal. q 1996 Academic Press, Inc.

People use metaphors such as Our marriage way as literal comparisons, such as Nectarines
was a rollercoaster ride in everyday dis- are like oranges.
course, and they are easily understood by their Although attractive in their simplicity, com-
addressees. How is this understanding accom- parison models fail for the important case in
plished? Some theorists have argued that met- which the addressee is not aware of the rele-
aphors are interpreted as implicit comparison vant properties that the topic and vehicle con-
statements, rather than categorical assertions. cepts share. Consider once more the claim Our
For example, Ortony (1979) and Gentner marriage was a rollercoaster ride. For people
(1983; Wolff & Gentner, 1992) have proposed who are not familiar with the marriage in
that metaphors of the form X is a Y are inter- question, there can be no a priori representa-
preted as comparisons of the form X is like a tion of the marriage that includes properties
Y. Once the implicit comparison is recognized, such as exciting, scary, or unstable.
these theorists argue, the addressee then con- Yet these are exactly the sorts of properties
ducts a search for matching properties in the that come to mind upon an uninformed read-
topic (e.g., our marriage) and vehicle (e.g., ing of the statement.
rollercoaster ride) concepts. The implication
Comparison models are ill-equipped to deal
of these comparison models is that meta-
with any metaphor that is used to make infor-
phors are understood in essentially the same
mative assertions about a topici.e., to intro-
duce properties that are not part of the address-
ees mental representation of the topic. This
This research was supported by a Public Health Service argument applies with equal force to many
grant (HD25826) to Sam Glucksberg of Princeton Univer-
sity. I thank Sam for his support during all stages of this literal comparisons. For example, if a person
research. Thanks also to Susan Fussell, Boaz Keysar, Phil knows nothing about kumquats, then telling
Johnson-Laird, Marcia Johnson, Deanna Manfredi, Lisa her that A kumquat is like an orange will intro-
Torreano, and two anonymous reviewers for their com- duce new properties into her mental represen-
ments on earlier versions of this paper. Address corre-
spondence and reprint requests to Matthew S. McGlone,
tation of the concept kumquat, rather than
Department of Psychology, Lafayette College, Easton, PA produce a match between kumquat and
18042. E-mail: mcglonem@lafayette.edu. orange properties.
0749-596X/96 $18.00 544
Copyright q 1996 by Academic Press, Inc.
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 545

Instead of property matching, informative Glucksberg (1991) has argued for the first sce-
literal comparisons require a property attribu- nario, proposing that metaphors, like many lit-
tion strategy to be understood: the vehicle con- eral comparisons, are understood by casting
cept provides candidate properties that may the topic and vehicle concepts in a common
plausibly be attributed to the topic. This attri- category. Lakoff (1993) has argued for the
bution process is often based on an implicit second scenario. According to his proposal,
categorization of the vehicle. Upon hearing metaphors and other figurative expressions are
the statement A kumquat is like an orange, understood via reference to metaphoric corre-
the addressee may infer that they are alike in spondences that structure the interpreters un-
that they are both citrus fruits. Once the cit- derstanding of abstract concepts. To under-
rus fruit category is inferred, the addressee stand the implications of these two proposals
may attribute properties of this category, such for a general account of metaphor interpreta-
as pulpy flesh, tangy taste, and high vitamin tions, let us consider each one in more detail.
C content, to the unfamiliar concept kum-
quat. ATTRIBUTIVE CATEGORIZATION VIEW
Can this strategy be extended to metaphors? Glucksberg and his colleagues (Glucksberg,
Recall Our marriage was a rollercoaster ride. 1991; Glucksberg & Keysar, 1990; Glucks-
The topic and vehicle concepts may each be- berg & McGlone, in press) have argued that
long to several categories. A marriage is a type metaphors are interpreted as what they appear
of relationship and, more generally, a type of to be: category-inclusion assertions of the
social contract. A rollercoaster ride is a type form X is a Y. According to this proposal,
of recreational activity and also a type of jour- interpreters infer from a metaphor a category
ney. These concepts belong to other categories (a) to which the topic concept can plausibly
as well, but there does not appear to be a belong, and (b) that the vehicle concept exem-
conventional category that contains them plifies. For example, consider Their lawyer is
both. If there is no such category, what is a shark. Since the topic their lawyer cannot
the implied ground of the metaphor? Consider plausibly belong to the taxonomic category
two possibilities. One possibility is that the named by the vehicle shark (i.e., the actual
metaphor implies a common category, but not marine fish), this category is not ultimately
a conventional, lexicalized category. For ex- considered as the basis for interpreting the ex-
ample, a marriage and a rollercoaster ride can pression; instead, the interpreter infers a cate-
both belong to a category of exciting and/or gory of things that the vehicle exemplifies
scary situations. A second possibility is that (e.g., vicious, cunning beings) and can include
the metaphor does not imply a common cate- the topic among its members. When such a
gory, but rather a general correspondence be- category is used to characterize a metaphor
tween two separate categories. For example, topic, it functions as an attributive category in
the relationship between a marriage and a roll- that it provides properties (viciousness, cun-
ercoaster ride may be understood in terms of ning) that may be attributed to the topic. With
metaphorical correspondences between love extensive use, the attributive category exem-
and journeys, in which the lovers correspond plified by a vehicle concept may become con-
to travellers, the relationship corresponds to a ventional. For example, many dictionaries in-
moving vehicle, the lovers excitement corre- clude the attributive category exemplified by
sponds to the speed of the vehicle, and so shark as a secondary meaning of the term.
forth. In property attribution terms, the attributive
Either of these possibilities would provide categorization view suggests two kinds of
the interpreter with a way to attribute the prop- knowledge that interpreters should have to
erties of a rollercoaster ride to a marriage. But make sense of a metaphor. First, one must
which scenario describes what people actually know enough about the topic concept to ap-
do? This has been a matter of debate. preciate the attributive category to which it

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546 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

can plausibly and meaningfully belong. Sec- journey. For example, the conceptual met-
ond, one must be sufficiently familiar with the aphor1 RELATIONSHIPS ARE CONTAIN-
vehicle concept to know the categories it can ERS2 entails a correspondence between the
exemplify or epitomize. The most apt and love relationship and a container and between
comprehensible metaphor vehicles are typical the lovers and entities inside a container.
members of the attributive categories to which These correspondences are inferred from ex-
they are used to refer. Thus, a literal shark is pressions such as We are in love, We fell out
a typical member of the category of vicious, of love, and We are trapped in this relation-
cunning beings, along with wolves and ship. The conceptual metaphor LOVE IS A
snakes. Conventional metaphor vehicles such JOURNEY entails correspondences between
as shark, wolf, and snake can be understood lovers and travelers, the love relationship and
immediately, given a relevant metaphor topic. a traveling vehicle, problems in the relation-
Understanding a novel metaphor such as Their ship and obstacles in the path of travel, and
lawyer is a vampire may take more time be- so forth. These correspondences are inferred
cause one must infer the attributive category from figurative expressions such as We are at
that the vehicle exemplifies (e.g., someone a crossroads in our relationship, Love is a
who subsists by draining the resources of two-way street, We may have to go our sepa-
others). rate ways, etc.
According to this view, a metaphor vehicle Gibbs (1992, 1994) has extended Lakoffs
may elicit different interpretations depending original proposal to account for the production
on the topic and other contextual constraints. and comprehension of novel metaphors in the
For example, the expression A lifetime is a same system as idiomatic expressions. Ac-
day may be interpreted in several ways, de- cording to Gibbs, novel metaphors rarely cre-
pending on the kind of thing a day is perceived ate attributive categories de novo, but rather
as symbolizing. A day can symbolize a rela- instantiate established conceptual metaphori-
tively short time span, and so the expression cal themes. For example, the metaphors Our
may be interpreted to mean that life is short. love is a voyage to the bottom of the sea and
Alternatively, a day may be perceived as sym- Our marriage was a rollercoaster ride both
bolic of a series of temporal stages, and thus employ topics and vehicles that are consistent
the expression may be interpreted as an asser- with the conceptual metaphor LOVE IS A
tion of the correspondences between dawn and JOURNEY. By virtue of this common concep-
birth, morning and youth, night and death, etc. tual core, Gibbs argues, the two metaphors
convey only slightly different entailments
CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR VIEW about love (1992, p. 574).
Rich interpretations of this latter sort have The systematic clustering of figurative ex-
been the focus of another theory of metaphor, pressions around conceptual metaphors like
that proposed by the linguist George Lakoff LOVE IS A JOURNEY is striking. At the
and his colleagues (Lakoff, 1987, 1990, 1993; very least, this systematicity implies that many
Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff & Turner, of these expressions have a common meta-
1989; see also Gibbs, 1992, 1994). According
to their proposal, the production and compre- 1
The dual reference of the term metaphor in La-
hension of figurative expressions are mediated koffs writings is a potential source of confusion. The
by metaphorical correspondences that are part term is used to refer both to the verbal trope (its conven-
of the human conceptual system. For example, tional sense) and to the hypothesized system of correspon-
consider the concept of love. According to dences between conceptual domains. Cognitive scientists
Lakoff, love is understood in terms of have traditionally used the termanalogy to convey this
latter sense. However, in fairness to conceptual metaphor
conceptual metaphors that assimilate this theorists, I will follow their convention.
abstract target concept into concrete 2
Following Lakoffs convention, I will use uppercase
source concepts, such as container and titles to identify conceptual metaphors.

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 547

phorical derivation (Sweetser, 1990). How- the topic and vehicle concepts may belong to
ever, the functional role of conceptual meta- when interpreting a metaphor. For example,
phors in idiom and metaphor interpretation re- Our marriage was a rollercoaster ride may
mains unclear. Although conceptual metaphor be interpreted as an assertion that the marriage
theorists have not articulated this role, there belongs to a category of situations that roll-
are at least three possibilities. One possibility ercoaster rides exemplify, such as situations
is that conceptual metaphors play no role in that are exciting and/or scary. Figure 1 pro-
the interpretation of figurative expressions. As vides a schematic illustration of how the CM
with most words, the comprehension of meta- and AC views differ in their accounts of how
phorical expressions may proceed without re- this metaphor may be interpreted.
course to or awareness of their etymological This portrayal of the two views suggests a
origins. People may be able to appreciate the way to empirically distinguish them. Ac-
underlying metaphor when it is pointed out to cording to the AC view, a metaphor vehicle
them, but it need not be explicitly represented cues the interpreter to think of categories of
as conceptual knowledge. A second possibil- which the concept is emblematic or symbolic.
ity is that conceptual metaphors are available To be relevant in context, this category must
in conceptualsemantic memory, and may be be one that can plausibly and meaningfully
retrieved in certain situations. In this scenario, include the metaphor topic. For Our marriage
conceptual metaphors are not necessary for was a rollercoaster ride, a relevant category
immediate comprehension, but may be recog- might be the class of situations that are excit-
nized and appreciated in contexts that moti- ing and/or scary. Although rollercoaster ride
vate people to search for an underlying meta- may cue other categories (e.g., amusement
phorical theme (Nayak & Gibbs, 1990). A park rides, journeys), only those categories
third possibility is that conceptual metaphors that may include the topic our marriage are
are both available and accessible in any con- deemed relevant to the metaphor.
text, and thus may serve as the conceptual In contrast, the strong form of the CM view
basis for on-line figurative language compre- suggests that the literal categories of the topic
hension. Lakoff (1993) appears to endorse this and vehicle concepts play primary roles in
last possibility when he suggests that the sys- metaphor interpretation. When an interpreter
tem of conceptual metaphors . . . is used encounters Our marriage was a rollercoaster
constantly and automatically, with neither ef- ride in discourse, how does she determine
fort nor awareness (pp. 227228). The cur- which conceptual metaphor is relevant? The
rent study focuses on this strong form of the only cues available for selecting the appro-
conceptual metaphor view. priate metaphor are the topic and vehicle
themselves. The interpreter must recognize
COMPARING THE TWO VIEWS the membership of marriage and rollercoaster
The most salient difference between the rides in the categories of love relationships
conceptual metaphor and attributive categori- and journeys to apply the LOVE IS A
zation views (hereafter, the CM and AC JOURNEY correspondences to this expres-
views) is the knowledge base that is presumed sion. If the appropriate superordinate catego-
to underlie the metaphor interpretation pro- ries are not recognized, then a CM-interpreta-
cess. According to the CM view, the primary tion is not possible.
knowledge base for interpretation is a rich set At present, the evidence available to sup-
of metaphorical correspondences between ab- port either the AC or CM accounts of meta-
stract and concrete domains (e.g., lovejour- phor interpretation is indirect. Glucksberg
ney correspondences). The AC view, in con- (1991) has discussed several discourse phe-
trast, posits no such metaphorical structures. nomena associated with metaphors that sup-
The AC view presumes that people rely upon port the AC account. For example, the fact that
their knowledge of the multiple categories that metaphors either change meaning or become

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548 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

FIG. 1. Two views of metaphor interpretation.

nonsensical when reversed (e.g., A roll- ate a common conceptual metaphor. People
ercoaster ride was our marriage) is similar often speak of love in terms of journeys, anger
to that which occurs when literal category- in terms of heat and pressure (e.g., blow your
inclusion assertions are reversed (e.g., A bird stack, let off steam), ideas in terms of food
is a sparrow). Metaphor asymmetry and other (e.g., food for thought), and so on (Lakoff &
discourse phenomena, although consistent Johnson, 1980). Although the linguistic evi-
with the argument, do not force the conclusion dence is consistent with the CM view, one
that metaphors are processed initially as cate- must avoid using this evidence in a circular
gory-inclusion assertions. It is possible that manner. For example, the fact that people talk
interpreters treat metaphors as such only in about ideas in terms of food cannot be used
later stages of processing, or perhaps only in to show both that people conceptualize ideas
certain interpretational contexts. The available in terms of food and that people use this con-
evidence cannot distinguish among these pos- ceptualization to understand food-oriented ex-
sibilities. pressions about ideas. The conceptual status
The primary evidence for the CM view is of a metaphor such as IDEAS ARE FOOD
the observed systematicity of idiomatic ex- must be established independently of the lin-
pressions in certain semantic domains. Many guistic evidence.
of the conventional expressions used to de- At present, there is no conclusive evidence
scribe abstract concepts do appear to instanti- to support the claim that conceptual metaphors

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 549

are accessed to interpret metaphorical lan- pressions such as We are trapped in this rela-
guage. Furthermore, the studies that have ad- tionship (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). If, as
dressed this issue have focused exclusively on Gibbs (1992) has argued, interpretation of this
idiomatic expressions, although Gibbs (1992) expression requires mental reference to a con-
has claimed that metaphors are understood via ceptual metaphor, then one might expect para-
the same conceptual structures as idioms. Ba- phrases that reflect the correspondences be-
sic questions about the role of conceptual met- tween the source and target domains. In this
aphors in metaphor interpretation remain case, one might expect to observe people ei-
unanswered: Do the products of metaphor in- ther pointing out the correspondences (e.g.,
terpretation reflect conceptual correspon- their relationship is like a filing cabinet in
dences between the topic and vehicle do- that it contains their hopes and dreams) or
mains? Are these correspondences encoded in by using terms from the source domain (e.g.,
memory when a metaphor is understood? they are trapped/confined in the relation-
Glucksbergs attributive categorization pro- ship). If, on the other hand, interpreters rec-
posal raises similar questions: Does the ognize or infer an attributive category exem-
ground of a metaphor reflect an attributive cat- plified by the metaphor vehicle, then one
egory? Is this attributive category encoded in might expect paraphrases that focus on the
memory? properties of this category. For example, a fil-
The experiments reported here were de- ing cabinet is a prototypical member of cate-
signed to address these questions. In Experi- gories such as organized things and busi-
ments 1 and 2, peoples written interpretations ness-oriented things. If these categories
(i.e., paraphrases) were analyzed to determine come to mind when the metaphor is encoun-
whether people refer to CM correspondences tered, interpreters should attribute properties
or categorical attributes when explaining a such as organized or business-oriented
metaphors meaning. Experiment 3 investi- to the relationship.
gated whether people perceive the similarity Previous studies that have directly exam-
between metaphors in terms of CM correspon- ined peoples paraphrases of metaphors (Gen-
dences or attributive category membership. tner & Clement, 1988; Glucksberg & Man-
Finally, a cued recall paradigm was used in fredi, 1995; Ortony, Vondruska, Foss, &
Experiment 4 to determine the nature of the Jones, 1985; Tourangeau & Rips, 1991) have
representation that is encoded when a meta- generally found that people describe a meta-
phor is understood. phors meaning in terms of individual proper-
ties, rather than conceptual correspondences
EXPERIMENT 1: PARAPHRASING METAPHORS between the topic and vehicle. For example,
Perhaps the most straightforward way to in- Gentner and Clement (1988) found that peo-
vestigate the knowledge sources that people ples interpretations of similes (e.g., Ciga-
use to interpret metaphors is to examine the rettes are like time bombs) tended to include
ways people articulate a metaphors meaning. properties exemplified by the vehicle concepts
To the extent that one can specify the differ- (e.g., do their damage after some period of
ence between a paraphrase based on CM cor- time during which no damage is evident).
respondences and one based on an attributive These are exactly the type of properties one
category, an analysis of peoples paraphrases would expect participants to mention if they
may differentiate between the two accounts. recognized the attributive category exempli-
For example, consider the novel metaphor Our fied by the vehicle. The authors do not report
relationship is a filing cabinet. The choice of any paraphrases that could be construed as
topic and vehicle terms make this metaphor a referring to a conceptual metaphor. However,
good candidate for instantiating the concep- the figurative expressions used in this and
tual metaphor RELATIONSHIPS ARE CON- other previous studies did not involve topic
TAINERS, which presumably underlies ex- and vehicle concepts from the source and tar-

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550 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

get domains discussed by CM theorists. Per- words. At no point in the procedure did the
haps metaphors drawn from these domains experimenter mention the potential CM under-
have a special conceptual status and thus are pinnings of the expressions. Participants com-
understood differently from other figurative pleted their questionnaires while seated at a
expressions. table in a private room. On average, partici-
The logic of Experiment 1 was straightfor- pants took 40 min to complete their ratings
ward. Participants were asked to paraphrase a and paraphrases.
variety of metaphors instantiating conceptual Content analysis. Two additional partici-
metaphors that CM theorists have described. pants served as coders for this analysis. After
These paraphrases were then coded by judges receiving an informal tutorial on the notion
to determine the frequency with which refer- of conceptual metaphors and their relation to
ences to an underlying conceptual metaphor figurative language, the coders received a 32-
were made. page packet of materials. This packet con-
tained a typed transcript of the 480 generated
Method paraphrases (16 metaphors 1 30 participants),
Participants. Thirty-two Princeton under- the stimulus metaphors, and their accompa-
graduates, all native English speakers, were nying conceptual metaphors. At the top of
paid for their participation in this experiment. each 2-page section (a separate section for
Thirty of the participants generated para- each stimulus metaphor), the stimulus meta-
phrases and rated the comprehensibility of the phor appeared in boldface letters to the right,
metaphor stimuli. Two additional participants and the corresponding conceptual metaphor
coded the paraphrase protocols. appeared in uppercase letters to the left. The
Materials. Sixteen metaphorical sentences 30 generated paraphrases followed, numbered
were constructed for this experiment. These and double-spaced.
sentences were created by choosing topic and The coders were instructed to rate each
vehicle concepts from source and target do- paraphrase on a three-point scale (0 to 2) using
mains with potential CM correspondences of the following guidelines: A 0 rating indi-
the sort described by Lakoff and his col- cated that the paraphrase did not contain
leagues (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff & words or phrases referring to the CM source
Turner, 1989). Twelve of these sentences were domain; a rating of 1 indicated that the
nominative, X is a Y metaphors (e.g., Our rela- paraphrase contained words or phrases that
tionship is a filing cabinet, instantiating RE- might be construed as references to the source
LATIONSHIPS ARE CONTAINERS). The domain, but the references were ambiguous;
other four sentences were predicative meta- a rating of 2 indicated that the paraphrases
phors in which an entire verb phrase is used contained words or phrases that the coder felt
metaphorically (e.g., Tina planted the seeds were clearly references to the source domain.
of discontent among the members of her office The coders made their ratings indepen-
pool, instantiating IDEAS ARE PLANTS). dently of one another and, upon first compari-
These sentences, along with their correspond- son, had an 87% agreement rate. Discrepanc-
ing conceptual metaphors, are presented in ies were resolved through discussion by the
Appendix A. coders and, when necessary, by the input of
Procedure. The metaphor stimuli were pre- a third party. To illustrate how the coders used
sented to participants in a three page question- the 02 scale, consider the following para-
naire. The participants were instructed to read phrases generated for the metaphor Dr. Mo-
each sentence carefully and to rate its compre- relands lecture was a three-course meal for
hensibility on a scale of 1 (difficult to under- the mind:
stand) to 4 (easy to understand). After making (1) Dr. Ms [lecture] touched on a variety
a rating, participants were asked to write a of topics, but was well-integrated, thorough
paraphrase of the metaphor in their own and intellectually stimulating.

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 551

(2) The lecture had a lot of information for Of the paraphrases generated in this experi-
the mind to absorb. ment, fewer than 1/4 (24%) could be con-
(3) The lecture satisfied the minds intel- strued as containing references to an underly-
lectual hunger thoroughly. ing conceptual metaphor. Since most partici-
pants did not interpret the expressions in CM
This metaphor was created to instantiate the terms, what knowledge sources did they use
conceptual metaphor IDEAS ARE FOOD to interpret the expressions? Consider the
(Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). The ratings that paraphrases participants generated for Our
each of the paraphrases above received reflect marriage was a rollercoaster ride (see
their differential reliance on the use of food- Appendix B1). This metaphor was apparently
oriented language to explain the metaphors understood in much the same way by all parti-
meaning. Paraphrase (1) received a rating of cipants. They took it as a comment on the
0, indicating that the coders did not per- emotional instability of the relationship: ex-
ceive any reference to the food domain in its citing, frenetic, stomach-churning,
content. Paraphrase (3) received a rating of there were good days and bad days, etc.
2, indicating that it did involve reference Some of the paraphrases contained references
to the food domain (e.g., use of the word hun- that could be construed as relying on a meta-
ger). Paraphrase (2) contained references that phoric correspondence between spatial orien-
were ambiguous with respect to whether they tation and emotional valence (e.g., UP IS
were food-oriented (absorb may or may GOOD and DOWN IS BAD, Lakoff, 1993).
not be a reference to digestion), and thus re- None of the paraphrases, however, reflect the
ceived a rating of 1. LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, nor do they
refer to journey-related properties. Compare
Results and Discussion
these paraphrases with those obtained for Our
The mean comprehensibility ratings for the love is a voyage to the bottom of the sea (see
16 metaphors was 3.3 (SD 0.4), indicating Appendix B2). Despite a very clear allusion
that participants generally found the sentences to the LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, there
easy to understand. No significant correlations was little consensus among participants about
were found between these ratings and para- the meaning of this expression. Some took it
phrase content variables, so these ratings will to mean that the relationship was exotic and
not be discussed further. The results of the mysterious, others took it to mean that the
content analysis were clear-cut. The vast ma- relationship was dangerous emotionally, and
jority of paraphrases, 76%, received a rating still others took it as an assertion that the lov-
of 0, indicating an absence of CM refer- ers do not communicate well (e.g., We dont
ences. Fourteen percent received a rating of communicate; were as quiet as the bottom of
1 (ambiguous), and 10% received a rating the sea.). Some of the paraphrases do contain
of 2 (transparent CM references). The fre- journey-related references (e.g., journey, un-
quencies for the ambiguous and transparent charted), but such references were infrequent
CM paraphrases were combined (24%) to pro- (only 2 of 30 paraphrases).
duce a measure of the frequency of poten- According to Gibbs (1992), both the roll-
tial CM references. Further analyses sug- ercoaster ride and voyage expressions are in-
gested that these overall frequencies reflected stantiations of the LOVE IS A JOURNEY
the response pattern of individual participants. conceptual metaphor and therefore should
For each of the 16 metaphors, there was a convey only slightly different entailments
greater frequency of non-CM than CM para- about love (p. 574). Contrary to this asser-
phrases (sign test, p .001). Similarly, all tion, there was little interpretational overlap
30 participants produced non-CM paraphrases in the paraphrases participants generated for
with greater frequency than CM paraphrases the two expressions. Furthermore, it is diffi-
(sign test, p . 001). cult to explain the variability in the interpreta-

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552 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

tions of the voyage expression if one assumes One way to deal with this potential problem
that participants relied solely on LOVE IS A is to specifically ask participants to provide
JOURNEY correspondences. The AC view figurative paraphrases of the metaphorsthat
offers an alternative explanation. If, as is, to come up with other metaphors that ex-
Glucksberg (1991) argues, the vehicle is un- press roughly the same idea. If this is a reason-
derstood to name an attributive category, then able instruction, then participants should gen-
the comprehensibility of the metaphor should erate new metaphors that share a common
be particularly sensitive to the typicality of conceptual basis with the stimulus expression.
the vehicle in this category. Since most people According to the CM view, this conceptual
associate an actual rollercoaster ride with basis should be the underlying CM structure
thrills and excitement, the concept can be used of the stimulus metaphor. Consequently, parti-
as a label for the class of exciting, possibly cipants should generate metaphors that pre-
scary situations. A voyage to the bottom of serve the CM correspondences of the stimulus
the sea, however, does not invoke a strong metaphor. If, on the other hand, people under-
association: such a voyage may be a danger- stand a metaphor by drawing on their knowl-
ous, mysterious, or silent situation, but it does edge of the categories that the vehicle may
not exemplify any of these situations in partic- exemplify, then one would expect people to
ular. The lack of a salient attributive category generate similar metaphors by choosing vehi-
leaves the metaphorical sense of voyage to cles from the same attributive category as the
the bottom of the sea open to interpretative stimulus expression. These predictions were
license. tested in Experiment 2.
Although the AC view provides a plausible
explanation for the paraphrase results, the in- Method
frequent occurrence of CM interpretations
does not rule out the possibility that partici- Participants. Thirty-two Princeton under-
pants were relying on conceptual metaphors graduates were paid for their participation in
to interpret the expressions. Since participants this experiment. All of the participants were
were given the simple instructions to write native English speakers. Thirty participated in
out a paraphrase in your own words, they the metaphor generation task. Two additional
may have focused on vehicle properties cen- participants coded the generation protocols.
tral to the metaphors meanings, as opposed Materials. The 16 metaphorical sentences
to the conceptual knowledge underlying their created for Experiment 1 were used in this
interpretations. Furthermore, many partici- experiment.
pants may also have construed the request for Procedure. The stimulus metaphors were
paraphrases as an instruction to exclude presented to participants in a three-page ques-
any references of a figurative nature. Conse- tionnaire. Each participant saw all 16 meta-
quently, these participants may have made a phors. Participants were instructed to read
conscious effort to avoid CM references in each metaphor carefully and then to rate its
their interpretations. Experiment 2 addresses comprehensibility on a scale of 1 (difficult to
this potential problem. understand) to 4 (easy to understand). After
making the rating, participants were instructed
EXPERIMENT 2: PARAPHRASING METAPHORS to think of another metaphor that had the same
WITH METAPHORS or a very similar meaning and to write this
One possible explanation for the low inci- metaphor in the space provided below the
dence of CM paraphrases in Experiment 1 is stimulus metaphor. At no point in the proce-
that participants understood the request for dure did the experimenter mention the poten-
paraphrases as an instruction to describe the tial CM underpinnings of the expressions. Par-
metaphors meaning in literal terms, while ex- ticipants completed their questionnaires while
cluding any references of a figurative nature. seated at a table in a private room. On average,

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 553

participants took 45 mins to complete the cating that participants found them easy to
questionnaire. understand. No reliable correlations were
Content analysis. Two additional partici- found between these ratings and the para-
pants served as coders in this analysis. The phrase content variables, so these ratings will
procedure for this analysis was similar to that not be discussed further. As in Experiment 1,
in Experiment 1. After receiving an informal a majority of the paraphrases (59%) received a
tutorial on the notion of conceptual metaphors rating of 0, indicating that the paraphrases
and their relation to figurative language, each were inconsistent with the conceptual meta-
coder received a packet of materials con- phors presumably underlying the stimulus ex-
taining the stimulus metaphors, their accom- pressions. Nine percent received a rating of
panying conceptual metaphors, and a typed 1 (ambiguous), and 32% received a rating
transcript of the metaphors generated by parti- of 2 (CM-consistent). The frequencies for
cipants. The coders were instructed to rate the ambiguous and CM-consistent para-
each paraphrase on the same three-point scale phrases were combined (41%) to produce a
used in the previous experiment. Upon first measure of the frequency of potentially CM-
comparison, the coders had a 93% agreement consistent responses. Further analyses indi-
rate. Disagreements were resolved through cated that the overall frequencies reflected the
discussion by the two coders and, when neces- response pattern of individual participants.
sary, by the input of a third party. To illustrate For 13 of the 16 metaphors, there was a greater
how the coders used the 02 scale in this frequency of CM-inconsistent than CM-con-
experiment, consider the following para- sistent paraphrases (sign test p .02). In addi-
phrases generated in response to the stimulus tion, 22 of the 30 participants generated CM-
metaphor Dr. Morelands lecture was a three- inconsistent paraphrases with greater fre-
course meal for the mind: quency than CM-consistent paraphrases (sign
(1) Dr. Morelands lecture was a goldmine test p .05).
for the mind. The percentage of CM-consistent para-
(2) Dr. Ms lecture was a truckload for the phrases increased substantially from Experi-
mind. ment 1 to Experiment 2. This suggests that
(3) Dr. Morelands lecture was bread for the request for paraphrases (as opposed to
my starving mind. metaphorical paraphrases) in Experiment 1
The ratings each of these paraphrases received may have been understood by some partici-
reflect their differential reliance on the CM pants as an instruction to exclude references of
source domain, food, in generating new a figurative nature. Consequently, the results
metaphors. Paraphrase (1) received a rating of from Experiment 1 may underestimate the fre-
0, indicating that the coders did not per- quency with which people resort to CM corre-
ceive any reference to the food domain in its spondences when explaining a metaphors
content. Paraphrase (3) received a rating of meaning. It may also be the case, however,
2, indicating that it did involve reference that the request for metaphorical para-
to the food domain (i.e., likening the lecture phrases in the current experiment may have
to bread). Paraphrase (2) contained a reference created a spuriously high rate of CM-consis-
that was ambiguous with respect to whether tent responses. For example, the presentation
it was food-oriented (i.e., it was not clear to of an expression such as Our marriage was a
the coders whether the truckload was com- rollercoaster ride may have produced literal
prised of food or some other substance) and priming of journey-oriented terms indepen-
thus received a rating of 1.
dently of the hypothesized conceptual corre-
Results and Discussion spondences underlying the expression. As a
The mean comprehensibility rating for the result, participants who did not contemplate
stimulus metaphors was 3.0 (SD 0.5), indi- these correspondences may nevertheless have

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554 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

produced new metaphors employing vehicles callythat is, by producing a new metaphor
from the journey domain. with a similar meaning. Interestingly, the ma-
Although the percentage of CM-consistent jority (59%) of these paraphrases were CM-
paraphrases increased from Experiment 1, inconsistent. One interpretation of this finding
participants in the current experiment modally is that the CM-inconsistent paraphrases reflect
produced CM-inconsistent paraphrases. What a process of metaphor interpretation that
aspects of the stimulus metaphors did these draws on a different knowledge base than that
CM-inconsistent paraphrases preserve? A sur- suggested by the CM view. This different
vey of the paraphrases generated suggests that knowledge base (e.g., attributive categories)
most participants produced new metaphors enabled participants to see similarities be-
that preserved the stereotypical properties of tween metaphors that would go unnoticed if
the original vehicle concept, rather than the the metaphors were interpreted strictly in
source domain of the underlying conceptual terms of CM correspondences. It could be ar-
metaphor. Consider the metaphors partici- gued, however, that the metaphorical para-
pants generated to paraphrase Dr. Morelands phrase task encouraged participants to em-
lecture was a three-course meal for the mind ploy an interpretation strategy that is not rep-
(see Appendix C1). This expression was de- resentative of the way they normally interpret
signed to instantiate the conceptual metaphor metaphors. For example, some participants
IDEAS ARE FOOD (Lakoff & Johnson, may have approached the task of generating
1980), which involves a correspondence be- metaphors as a test of creative ability. As a
tween ideas and food, thinking and eating, un- result, they may have felt pressure to employ
derstanding and digestion, and so forth. Only an unconventional interpretation strategy to
10 of the 30 paraphrases employed vehicles come up with novel metaphors. This would
from the CM source domain of food (e.g., certainly be a problem if participants tried to
buffet). However, all of the new metaphors be creative by producing new metaphors that
produced by participants reflect at least a par- were relatively dissimilar to the stimulus ex-
tial recognition of the stereotypical properties pressions.
of three-course meals that can be attributed to Experiment 3 was conducted to address this
lectures, such as large quantity and vari- concern and to further investigate the similari-
ety. The new vehicles may be grouped on ties people perceive among different meta-
the basis of these shared properties. Most of phors. Participants were presented with a sam-
the new vehicles retained the large quantity ple of the CM-consistent and CM-inconsistent
property (e.g., flood, full tank of gas, truck- metaphors generated in Experiment 2 and
load), while some also shared the variety were asked to rate the extent to which these
property (e.g., smorgasbord, Olympiad, trip metaphors were similar in meaning to the
around the world). The diversity of these vehi- original stimulus metaphors. Unlike the meta-
cles suggests that participants understood phor generation task, a similarity ratings task
three-course meal as something more than produces data that are not constrained by par-
simply an exemplar from the food domain. ticipants language production abilities. In ad-
Participants apparently recognized this con- dition, the task of making similarity ratings is
cept as an exemplar of a category that may less likely to be construed by participants as
also include feasts, floods, and full tanks of a test of intelligence or creative ability.
gas as members. Parallel results were obtained According to the CM view, peoples intu-
with the other stimulus metaphors presented itions about the similarity between metaphors
(see Appendix C2 for another example). should be based on the underlying conceptual
EXPERIMENT 3: METAPHOR SIMILARITY AND structure of the expressions (Lakoff, 1993;
CM-CONSISTENCY Gibbs, 1992). For example, a metaphor such
In Experiment 2, it was found that people as Dr. Morelands lecture was a three-course
are able to paraphrase a metaphor metaphori- meal for the mind, which has the implicit con-

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 555

ceptual structure of IDEAS ARE FOOD, in this study. A third type of alternative, the
should be rated as more similar in meaning to unrelated metaphors, was created for this
other metaphors that share this structure (e.g., study. These were anomalous metaphors that
Dr. Morelands lecture was a steak for the were designed to be neither CM-consistent nor
mind) than those that do not (e.g., Dr. Mo- attributively similar to the target (e.g., Dr. Mo-
relands lecture was a full tank of gas for the relands lecture was a ceiling fan for the
mind). mind). The unrelated metaphors (three for
According to the AC view, people should each target) were included as judgment an-
perceive the similarity between metaphors in chors for the similarity scale and were ex-
terms of the attributive categories that their pected to elicit relatively low similarity rat-
vehicles exemplify. If the vehicles exemplify ings. A seven-point similarity scale was pre-
the same attributive category, the expressions sented below each of the alternative
should be rated as similar in meaning. Thus, if metaphors. The 1 on this scale was labeled
people can conceive of an attributive category not at all similar and the 7 was labeled
exemplified by three-course meals that steaks very similar.
and full tanks of gas may also exemplify (e.g., The three types of alternative metaphors
things that come in large quantities), the were presented in a random order following
steak and full tank of gas expressions should each target. To control for possible order and
be rated as equally similar to the three-course position effects, two separate booklets (A and
meal expression. B) were constructed that presented each set of
alternatives in a different random order.
Method In designing the materials for the similarity
Participants. Thirty Lafayette College un- ratings task, there was some concern about
dergraduates, all native English speakers, re- whether participants would view the CM-con-
ceived course credit for their participation in sistent and CM-inconsistent metaphors as
this experiment. equally apt. Specifically, if participants con-
Materials. For the similarity ratings task, sidered the CM-consistent metaphors as less
booklets were constructed consisting of 16 apt than the CM-inconsistent metaphors, the
sets of 10 metaphorical sentences. The first difference in aptness might override any effect
sentences of each set, the target metaphors, of CM-consistency on the similarity ratings.
were the stimulus metaphors used in Experi- To investigate this possibility, a group of 16
ments 1 and 2. The target metaphor was under- Lafayette undergraduates were recruited to
lined and centered at the top of each page of rate the aptness of the two metaphor types.
the booklet (e.g., Dr. Morelands lecture was The participants rated each metaphors apt-
a three-course meal for the mind). The 9 sen- ness on a seven-point scale (with 1 labeled
tences that followed, the alternative meta- not at all apt and 7 labeled very apt).
phors, were of three types. The CM-consis- The CM-inconsistent metaphors were rated as
tent alternatives were metaphors generated slightly less apt than the CM-consistent meta-
by participants in Experiment 2 that drew phors (4.18 and 4.36, respectively), although
from the same CM source domain as the target this difference was not reliable (ts for the
metaphor (e.g., Dr. Morelands lecture was a item and subject analyses were less than 1).
smorgasbord for the mind). The CM-incon- Thus, the results of this control study suggest
sistent alternatives were metaphors gener- that there was no aptness advantage for the
ated in Experiment 2 that did not draw from inconsistent metaphors.
this source domain (e.g., Dr. Morelands lec- Design and procedure. The experiment em-
ture was a full tank of gas for the mind). For ployed a 2 1 3 mixed design with one be-
each target metaphor, three CM-consistent tween-subject factor (Booklet A or B) and one
and three CM-inconsistent alternatives were within-subject factor (Alternative Type).
chosen from the Experiment 2 corpus for use Upon arrival in the laboratory, participants

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556 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

were randomly assigned to Booklet A or B. lecture was a three-course meal for the min-
The experimenter instructed participants to d(target) than Dr. Morelands lecture was a
read through the entire set of materials and full tank of gas for the mind (CM-inconsis-
then rate the similarity of the alternatives to tent). The AC view proposes that people un-
the target in each metaphor set. On average, derstand three-course meal as the name of a
participants took approximately 45 min to category of things that come in large quanti-
complete their booklets. ties, and thus other vehicles that belong to
this category, such as steak and full tank of
Results and Discussion gas, should be judged as similar in meaning.
Initial analyses did not reveal a main effect The current results are consistent with this
or interaction for the between-subjects factor view.
(Booklet), so further analyses were conducted Taken as a whole, the results from Experi-
collapsing across this variable. The mean sim- ments 13 demonstrate that people do not
ilarity ratings for the three alternative types modally adopt a CM strategy to explain a met-
were as follows (higher ratings indicate higher aphors meaning. However, the reflective, de-
degrees of similarity to the target): 4.98 for the liberate nature of paraphrase and ratings tasks
CM -consistent, 4.75 for the CM-inconsistent, may not be generalizable to situations in
and 2.28 for the Unrelated. which a metaphor is encountered in ongoing
The ratings data were analyzed using one- text or discourse. The knowledge base that
way repeated measures analyses of variance people use to reflectively interpret and ap-
(ANOVA) with Alternative Type as a within- preciate metaphors may be broader than that
subjects factor. Two such ANOVAs were con- which is required for immediate comprehen-
ducted, one treating subjects as a random fac- sion (Gerrig & Healy, 1983). For example, it
tor (Fs) and one treating items as a random is possible that people initially interpret meta-
factor (Fi). A significant effect of Alternative phors in CM terms and only upon reflection
Type was found in both the subjects (Fs(2,58) consider the unique attributes of the vehicle
384.06, p .01) and the items (Fi(2,30) concept. In Experiment 4, a cued-recall para-
208.51, p .01) analyses. Planned compari- digm is used to investigate the nature of the
sons between the individual means revealed representation that is constructed when a met-
that the unrelated metaphors were rated as less aphor is understood in a time-constrained situ-
similar to the target than either the CM -con- ation.
sistent (ts(58) 22.06, p .01; ti(30) 18.10,
p .01) or the CM-inconsistent metaphors EXPERIMENT 4: METAPHOR RECALL
(ts(58) 21.25, p .01; ti(30) 15.27, p The manner in which people recall verbal
.01). There was, however, no difference in material is frequently used to demonstrate the
the similarity ratings obtained for the CM- constructive, elaborative nature of language
consistent and CM-inconsistent metaphors comprehension. Several studies have shown
(ts(58) 1.37, p .05; ti(30) .91, p .05). that the accessibility of verbal material to re-
The results of this experiment complement call can provide a sensitive measure of how
those from Experiment 2 in demonstrating that the material was interpreted (e.g., Barclay,
people may perceive similarities among meta- Bransford, Franks, McCarrell, & Nitsch,
phors that cannot be explained in terms of CM 1974; Blumenthal & Boakes, 1967; Tulving &
correspondences. Alternative metaphors that Thomson, 1973; Verbrugge & McCarrell,
were CM-consistent with the target metaphors 1977). An important principle that has
did not receive higher similarity ratings than emerged from these studies is that the opera-
alternatives that were inconsistent. For exam- tions people use to encode and recall verbal
ple, Dr. Morelands lecture was a steak for material are strongly interdependent. Tulving
the mind (CM-consistent) was not perceived and Thomson (1973) coined the term encod-
as more similar in meaning to Dr. Morelands ing specificity to refer to this principle.

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 557

What is stored is determined by what is per- lectures as members. The food category is
ceived and how it is encoded, and what is rejected in favor of a category that can include
stored determines what retrieval cues are ef- lectures as members, such as things that
fective in providing access to what is stored come in large quantities. This proposal sug-
(Tulving & Thomson, 1973, p. 353). gests that an appropriate cue for recalling the
The encoding specificity principle suggests metaphor is one that refers to a relevant attrib-
that recall will be most successful when there utive category (e.g., large quantity).
is strong match between the representation In Experiment 4, a cued recall paradigm
that is generated during comprehension and was used to investigate the effectiveness of
the cues present at the time of recall. The CM conceptual and attributive cues in
and AC views offer very different accounts as prompting metaphor recall. Pairs of sentences
to the makeup of the representation that is were constructed that provided a metaphorical
generated during metaphor comprehension. or a literal context for a vehicle concept such
According to the CM view, the representation as three-course meal. Cues that referred to
is composed of the conceptual correspon- either the CM source domain or attributive
dences that are activated to understand the ex- category of the vehicle were constructed. For
pression. For example, understanding The lec- example, the CM cue for three course meal
ture was a three-course meal involves recog- was food, and the AC cue was large quantity.
nizing the expression as an instantiation of If three-course meals status in the source do-
the conceptual metaphor IDEAS ARE FOOD. main of food is central to the comprehen-
Since ideas are metaphorically linked to a va- sion of the expression, then food should be an
riety of source domains (IDEAS ARE FOOD, effective cue for recalling a metaphorical use
IDEAS ARE PLANTS, IDEAS ARE CUT- of the concept (The lecture was a three-course
TING INSTRUMENTS, etc.; Lakoff & John- meal). In principle, the CM cues effective-
son, 1980), recognizing the vehicles literal ness in prompting recall of a metaphorical and
category, food in this case, is crucial. In literal use (e.g., She prepared a three-course
principle, the activation of food knowledge meal for her guests) should be equivalent. If,
to understand the metaphorical use of three- on the other hand, the metaphorical use of
course meal should occur in the same way as three-course meal is understood to name a
its activation when understanding the term in category that can include the topic (things
a literal context, as in She prepared a three- that come in large quantities), then a cue
course meal for her guests. The difference is describing the attributive category (large
that in a metaphorical context, the IDEAS quantity) should be effective.
ARE FOOD correspondences are also acti-
vated (Lakoff, 1993). This view suggests that Method
an appropriate cue for recalling the metaphor Participants. Thirty-eight Princeton under-
would be one that makes reference to the CM graduates were paid for their participation in
source domain (e.g., food). the experiment. Thirty-six participated in the
According to the AC view, the literal cate- recall phase, and 2 served as coders in the
gories of the topic and vehicle are not central recall scoring phase.
to metaphor meaning. When a metaphor is Materials. Sixteen pairs of sentences were
understood, the representation that is gener- created for this experiment. One sentence of
ated is an attributive category that is exempli- each pair was metaphorical, created by choos-
fied by the vehicle and may plausibly include ing topics and vehicles from domains that CM
the topic. For example, when people encoun- theorists have described. For example, The
ter The lecture was a three-course meal, they faculty meeting was a battle instantiates the
may initially recognize three-course meals conceptual metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR
status in the food category, but quickly dis- (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). The literal control
regard this category because it cannot include sentence for this metaphor was Many men took

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558 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

part in the battle. The various subjects and phrases. Half of these pairs were the cue pairs
predicates across the sentence pairs were kept designed for the recall experiment (e.g., body
as distinct as possible. From these metaphori- partintelligent, foodlarge quantity, etc.).
calliteral pairs, two acquisition lists were The other 16 pairs were constructed by scram-
constructed such that only one sentence of bling the cue pairs (e.g., body partexciting,
each pair appeared in a list, and each list con- warlarge quantity, etc.). Participants were
tained equal numbers of the experimental sen- instructed to rate each pair on a seven-point
tence types. The assignment of sentences to relatedness scale (with 1 labeled as not
lists was made in a way judged likely to mini- at all related and 7 labeled as very re-
mize intralist intrusions. In addition to the ex- lated). The cue pairs and scrambled pairs
perimental sentences, the lists included six lit- were presented in a random order in the book-
eral filler sentences, three at the beginning and let. The mean relatedness ratings for the cue
three at the end. These sentences were in- pairs and scrambled pairs were 3.03 and 2.61,
cluded in the lists to control for potential pri- a difference which was not reliable (t(19)
macy and recency effects in subsequent recall. 2.01, p .20). This suggests that the cues
Both lists were recorded on audiotape by an were sufficiently distinct to differentiate be-
adult male speaker, using a natural speaking tween retrieval of a CM-based and an AC-
pace and intonation contour. Each sentence based encoding of a metaphor.
was spoken twice, with a 5-s pause between The cues were assembled into two sets, with
each utterance. each set containing half of the CM cues and
Two sets of words were generated as recall half of the AC cues. The CM and AC cues for
cues. One set was designed to cue the CM a given sentence always appeared in different
source domains from which the vehicle terms lists. The order of the cues in each list was
were chosen. For example, the sentence Lisa randomized with respect to acquisition order,
is the brain of the family was designed to in- and the same order was used in both lists to
stantiate the conceptual metaphor SOCIAL prevent differential recall order effects. Book-
GROUPS ARE BODIES. To cue the source lets that presented each cue in boldface letters
domain of bodies, the term body part was at the top of an otherwise blank sheet of paper
chosen as a CM cue. The AC cues referred were prep.
to the attributive category associated with the Procedure. Participants were run in groups
vehicle concept. For example, if brain is un- of two in a single experimental session. Both
derstood to be emblematic of an attributive participants sat in a small experimental room
category (intelligent things), then a word facing a tape recorder placed on a table in
describing the category (intelligent) should be front of them. The experimenter informed
an effective recall cue. Other CM and AC cues them that they would hear a series of unrelated
were generated using this logic. sentences describing various types of people,
Although an effort was made to keep the ideas, emotions, and objects. Participants were
CM and AC cues as distinct as possible, there asked to listen carefully to each sentence as
were some cases in which the two cues were it was read. No mention was made of the sub-
semantically related to some degree. For ex- sequent recall task. After playing one of the
ample, the CM and AC cues for the metaphor two acquisition lists, the experimenter pre-
The faculty meeting was a battle were war sented participants with one of the two book-
(ARGUMENTS ARE WAR) and dispute lets of recall cues. Participants were instructed
(situations involving a dispute). To deter- to read each cue word carefully and to write
mine the overall level of semantic relatedness down any of the presented sentences to which
of the cue pairs, a group of 20 Lafayette Col- the cue word seemed to be related. Partici-
lege undergraduates were recruited for a sepa- pants were explicitly told not to worry about
rate norming study. Each participant received recalling the proper names that were used in
a booklet containing 32 pairs of words and some of the sentences (e.g., Lisa is the brain

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 559

TABLE 1 ducted on the individual proportions with Sen-


RECALL ACCURACY AS A FUNCTION OF SENTENCE AND tence Type (literal vs metaphorical) and Cue
CUE TYPE, EXPERIMENT 4 Type (CM vs AC) as within-subject and
within-item factors. Initial analyses did not
Sentence type reveal significant acquisition list or cue list
Cue
type Literal Metaphorical effects, so further analyses were conducted
collapsing across these factors. There were no
Strict scoring CM 0.49 0.20 significant differences between the analyses
AC 0.31 0.41 for the strict and gist scoring criteria, so only
Gist scoring CM 0.56 0.25 the analyses on the gist data are reported.
AC 0.36 0.49
Analyses of these data revealed no significant
main effects of either Sentence Type or Cue
of the family). The experimenter paced partici- Type. There was, however, a strong Sentence
pants at 45 s per cue. Type X Cue Type interaction (Fs(1,35)
Recall scoring. The recall protocols for 28.38, p .01; Fi(1,15) 12.65, p .01).
each participant were coded using two differ- Planned comparisons to examine the rela-
ent sets of scoring criteria. The strict scor- tive effectiveness of the AC and CM cues in
ing criteria required that each recalled sen- prompting recall of the metaphorical and lit-
tence be a reproduction of the stimulus sen- eral sentences were conducted. AC cues were
tence, with the following exceptions: more effective in prompting recall of the met-
Deletion, addition, or changes of articles; aphorical sentences than CM cues (ts(35)
changes in number and gender of pronouns; 5.41, p .01; ti(15) 2.79, p .02). For
changes of auxiliary verbs; changes of tense; example, The lecture was a three-course meal
changes of word order; and substitution of was more effectively prompted by a cue de-
proper names with pronouns. The gist scor- scribing the attributive category exemplified
ing criteria included all of the exceptions by the vehicle (large quantity) than by a term
above and also allowed for substitution of syn- referring to the CM source domain (food). Al-
onyms and hyponyms (e.g., food for three- though this finding suggests that the AC cues
course meal), the omission of one or more provided a better match than the CM cues to
sentence elements (e.g., Lisa is a brain for the representations that were generated during
Lisa is the brain of the family), or the introduc- metaphor comprehension, there is an alterna-
tion of new elements. The gist scoring in- tive explanation that should be considered.
cluded all sentences counted as correct recalls The CM cues may have been less effective
by the strict scoring. because they were poorly choseni.e., the
Two additional participants coded the recall CM cues failed to capture the essence of
protocols after studying a two-page descrip- the CM source domain. However, the effec-
tion of the scoring criteria and an example list tiveness of the CM cues in prompting recall
of scored sentences. The coders scored the of the literal sentences (mean recall accuracy
protocols independently and upon first com- 0.56) does not support this conclusion.
parison had a 91% agreement rate. Disagree- Overall, CM cues were significantly more ef-
ments were resolved through discussion be- fective than AC cues in prompting recall of
tween coders and, when necessary, through the literal sentences (ts(35) 2.61, p .02;
the input of a third party. ti(15) 2.37, p .05). For example, food
was a more effective cue than large quantity
Results and Discussion when three-course meal appeared in a literal
The mean proportions of sentences cor- context (She prepared a three-course meal for
rectly recalled as a function of sentence type, her guests). Apparently, the membership of
recall cue, and scoring criteria are presented three-course meals in the food category
in Table 1. Analyses of variance were con- was more salient when it appeared in a literal

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560 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

context, and its membership in the large guistic device is obvious. New or abstract con-
quantity category was more salient in the cepts are most likely to be understood when
metaphorical context. they can be assimilated into concepts that are
The results from this experiment parallel familiar or concrete. Metaphor provides com-
those of Anderson and Ortonys (1975) classic municators with a compact way to convey this
study of contextual influence on the accessi- givennew or concreteabstract relationship.
bility of word senses. These researchers dem- The fundamental role that metaphor plays
onstrated that the mental representation cre- in communication has led some theorists to
ated by reading a word or phrase is not invari- conclude that metaphor also plays a funda-
ant across sentences, but rather particularized mental role in human thought. The CM view
by context. For example, consider the repre- formulated by Lakoff and his colleagues is
sentations of piano that might be created one such theory, although other researchers
upon reading one of the following sentences: have made similar claims (Clark, 1973; Trau-
Pianos can be pleasing to listen to; Pianos gott, 1978). The role that these hypothesized
can be difficult to move. Pianos musical po- conceptual structures may play in human
tential is relevant in the first sentence, and thought and reasoning is beyond the scope
their status as heavy pieces of furniture is rele- of this article. The experiments reported here
vant in the second sentence. Anderson and focus exclusively on the role that conceptual
Ortony concluded that the differential effec- metaphors may play in the interpretation of
tiveness of cue words in prompting recall of metaphorical expressions. The most parsimo-
these sentences (music was effective for the nious conclusion that can be drawn from our
first, heavy for the second) was an indication results is that peoples interpretations of meta-
of the different representations of piano that phors are not necessarily related to an underly-
are generated when the term is encountered ing conceptual metaphor. Three pieces of evi-
in different contexts: . . . in one context, dence support this conclusion. First, people
piano is a member of the same category as, do not modally paraphrase metaphors in CM
say, harmonica while . . . in the latter case terms (Experiments 1 and 2). Second, meta-
perhaps sofa would be a cohyponym (p. phors with a common CM derivation are not
169). This explanation is in principle similar perceived as more similar than those with no
to the AC explanation of the recall findings such relation (Experiment 3). Third, terms de-
in this experiment. In a literal context, a con- scribing the relevant CM source domain are
cepts salient taxonomic category member- relatively ineffective cues for metaphor recall.
ships are salient, but when the concept is used Our failure to find a reliable influence of
as a metaphor vehicle, they may not be. In- conceptual metaphors on peoples interpreta-
stead, the category that is accessed is one that tions may have resulted from factors unique to
the vehicle exemplifies and may plausibly in- our experiments. At a minimum, two factors
clude the topic. should be considered. First, our participants
encountered metaphors in isolation (i.e., with-
GENERAL DISCUSSION out a supporting context). This situation may
Scholars have noted the ubiquity of meta- be contrasted with those in which people en-
phor not only in conversation and literature, counter figurative expressions in contexts that
but also in such diverse areas as psychother- facilitate recognition of an underlying meta-
apy (Rothenberg, 1984), religion (Soskice, phoric theme (Albritton, McKoon, & Gerrig,
1985), and physics (Gentner & Gentner, 1995; Nayak & Gibbs, 1990). In these situa-
1983). The pervasiveness of metaphor in vari- tions, people may very well employ CM-cor-
ous discourse contexts led Ortony (1975) to respondences in their interpretations. For ex-
conclude that metaphors are not simply nice, ample, Nayak and Gibbs (1990) found that
they are necessary. While the necessity of readers consider the idiom blow your top to
metaphor is debatable, the utility of this lin- be more appropriate than bite someones head

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 561

off in a story containing other ANGER IS can be interpreted as an assertion that the topic
HEATED FLUID UNDER PRESSURE idi- their lawyer belongs to a category of things
oms (Lakoff, 1987). At the very least, this that the vehicle shark exemplifies. The cate-
finding suggests that people can appreciate the gory that the vehicle is taken to exemplify will
metaphoric consistency of different idiomatic be determined by its stereotypical properties.
expressions. However, this finding does not Since sharks are stereotypically vicious,
force the conclusion that mental reference to the term shark can be understood as a refer-
angerheat correspondences is necessary to ence to a category of vicious beings. Other
understand blow your top. Appropriateness concepts that share the property vicious
judgments are the product of a deliberate, con- (and thus exemplify the category of vicious
scious thought process and thus do not consti- beings), such as wolf or piranha, may be
tute a measure of the knowledge that used substituted for shark without producing an ap-
is during on-line comprehension (Glucksberg, preciable change in the way their lawyer is
Brown, & McGlone, 1993). characterized.
The present experiments also suffer from While the present results are consistent with
this problemparaphrasing, similarity rating, the attributive categorization view, a few
and cued recall are not on-line measures. Con- words of qualification are in order. First,
sequently, our results cannot address Lakoffs Glucksberg (1991) proposed the attributive
(1993) claim that conceptual metaphors are categorization model to describe metaphor in-
used constantly and automatically in any terpretation strictly at the level of discourse.
interpretational context. It is possible, for ex- The view is moot with respect to the form
ample, that people rely on conceptual meta- and structure of the mental lexicon and may
phors during immediate metaphor comprehen- require modification as future research eluci-
sion but do not have introspective access to dates the role that this structure plays in dis-
this information when they attempt to verbal- course comprehension. Second, the AC view
ize their interpretations. Introspective failures does not in any way solve the problem of
of this sort have been documented in the study metaphor interpretation. Rather, it recasts the
of attitudes (e.g., Nisbett & Wilson, 1977) and problem in terms of categorization constructs
may also have occurred in our experiments. that are familiar to cognitive psychologists.
In the absence of relevant on-line evidence, Conceptualizing the problem in these terms
however, explaining our results in these terms does, however, offer clear implications for
would be premature. what an adequate psychological model of met-
If conceptual metaphors are used during on- aphor interpretation might look like. Such a
line comprehension, their influence does not model would specify how people process mul-
manifest itself in the interpretations people tiple category memberships that the topic and
produce in situations conducive to reflection. vehicle concepts have in common, and how
In the situations we examined, people appear people select the category that is relevant in
to rely heavily on the stereotypical properties a given discourse context.
of the vehicle concept. This finding is consis- In conclusion, the attributive categorization
tent with previous studies of metaphor inter- view does not spill the beans on metaphor
pretation (Gentner & Clement, 1988; Ortony, interpretation. It does, however, offer some
Vondruska, Foss, & Jones, 1985; Tour- food for thought.
angeau & Rips, 1991) and is consistent with
APPENDIX A
the attributive categorization view described
by Glucksberg (1991). According to this view, Stimulus Metaphors Used
metaphors are understood as category-inclu- in Experiments 13
sion assertions in which the topic is assigned 1. Dr. Morelands lecture was a 3-course
to a category exemplified by the vehicle con- meal for the mind.
cept. For example, Their lawyer is a shark (IDEAS ARE FOOD)

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562 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

2. Our marriage was a rollercoaster ride. times things were good and sometimes
(LOVE IS A JOURNEY) bad.
3. Complex theories often have leaky 5. We had a very frenetic relationship.
plumbing. 6. We were aroused and thrilled by one an-
(THEORIES ARE BUILDINGS) other in our marriage.
4. The singers voice was velvet. 7. Our marriage was an exciting, electrifying
(SOUND IS TOUCH) experience.
5. Our relationship is a filing cabinet. 8. We would go from good days to bad days.
(RELATIONSHIPS ARE CONTAIN- Our marriage was very passionate.
ERS) 9. Our feelings changed from love to hate
6. Tine planted the seeds of discontent very quickly.
among the members of her office pool. 10. Our marriage was exhausting and emo-
(IDEAS ARE PLANTS) tional.
7. Her mind is a shoebox. 11. We were very unstable in our feelings for
(MINDS ARE CONTAINERS) one another.
8. Our love is a voyage to the bottom of the 12. A thrilling and dangerous experience.
sea. 13. Sometimes we love one another, some-
(LOVE IS A JOURNEY) times we hated one another, but we al-
9. The faculty meeting was a battle. ways aroused each other.
(ARGUMENT IS WAR) 14. Our marriage was stimulating and emo-
10. Billboards are warts on the landscape. tional.
(LAND IS A BODY)
15. We would have good days and bad days.
11. Our relationship has been a storm.
16. The marriage exhausted us because our
(LOVE IS A PHYSICAL FORCE)
emotions changed so quickly.
12. The professor breathed new life into
17. We exited one another, and had very
Marys thesis.
strong passions.
(IDEAS ARE PEOPLE)
13. Lisa is the brain of the family. 18. Like a rollercoaster, our marriage was ex-
(SOCIAL GROUPS ARE BODIES) citing and stomach-turning at the same
14. Alan has a heart of ice. time.
(EMOTIONS ARE TEMPERATURES) 19. Things happened so quickly in our mar-
15. Toms novel is the caviar of the book riage that we didnt have time to breathe.
world. 20. We were emotionally unstable in our mar-
(IDEAS ARE FOOD) riage.
16. Karen really gets Johns motor running. 21. Our marriage was very passionate, excit-
(LUST IS A MACHINE) ing, and dangerous.
22. Our marriage was charged with passion.
APPENDIX B 23. We loved and hated each other, but we
always excited one another.
Paraphrases (Unedited) Generated
24. Our marriage bounced around from love
by Participants in Experiment 1
to hate.
1. Our marriage was a rollercoaster ride. 25. We waited a long time to get married, but
1. Our marriage was always exciting, but it was definitely worth the wait.
some days were happier than others. 26. We had some good times, but we also had
2. We were emotionally up and down all of some very bad times.
the time. 27. Our marriage was happy and sad, thrilling
3. The marriage was extremely exciting and and boring.
passionate. 28. Our marriage aroused the best and worst
4. Our marriage was pretty unstable, some- of feelings in us.

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METAPHOR INTERPRETATION 563

29. Our marriage was never very stable emo- 28. We are deep in love.
tionally. 29. It is unpassionate and cold.
30. It was a frantic, shaky marriage. 30. Our love is a journey on uncharted seas.

2. Our love is a voyage to the bottom of the APPENDIX C


sea. Paraphrases (Unedited) Generated
1. Our love is exciting and mysterious. by Participants in Experiment 2
2. Our love is pretty novel and strange.
3. We discover new things about each other 1. Dr. Morelands lecture was a three-course
the deeper we fall in love. meal for the mind.
4. Our love is unlike any we have ever 1. Dr. Morelands lecture was full of infor-
known. mation.
5. Our love is a very private affair, away 2. The lecture was an intellectual rose gar-
from the rest of the world. den.
6. It is a long journey to an unknown desti- 3. Dr. Ms lecture was exercise for the brain.
nation. 4. Dr. Morelands lecture was the War and
7. Our love is silent and still. Peace of lectures.
8. Our love is takes us away from the rest 5. Dr. Morelands lecture was overflowing
of the world. with information.
9. We are doomed if we stay together. 6. Dr. Morelands lecture was a buffet for
10. Our love is destructive and hopeless. the brain.
11. Our love explore new depths in our emo- 7. Dr. Morelands lecture was an orgy for
tions. the mind.
12. It will kill us. 8. Dr. Morelands lecture was a rigorous
13. Our love explores places Ive never seen workout for the mind.
before. 9. Dr. Ms lecture was a truckload for the
14. It is a bizarre love affair. mind.
15. Our love is exotic and dangerous. 10. Dr. Morelands lecture was a full tank of
16. Our love is secluded and gloomy. gas for the mind.
17. We discover new things about one other 11. His lecture was a smorgasbord for the
in our love. mind.
18. Our love is a refuge from the rest of hu- 12. Dr. Morelands lecture was a trip around
manity. the intellectual world.
19. We are going to drown in this relation- 13. Dr. Morelands lecture was bursting at the
ship. seams with information.
20. We have found out things about ourselves 14. Dr. Morelands lecture was a treasure
in this love that we never knew before. chest for the mind.
21. Our love is very private. We isolate our- 15. Dr. Morelands lecture was a cornucopia
selves from others. of information.
22. Our love is mysterious and new. 16. Dr. Morelands lecture was a flood to the
23. Our relationship is unlike anything weve mind.
every known. 17. Dr. Ms lecture was a mental feast.
24. It could be dangerous if we fall to deep 18. Dr. Morelands lecture was bread for my
into love. starving mind.
25. We dont communicate; were as quiet as 19. His lecture stoked the intellectual embers.
the bottom of the sea. 20. Dr. Morelands lecture was a typhoon of
26. Our love is confidential or (exotic and facts and theories.
special). 21. Dr. Morelands lecture was a goldmine
27. Our love is exciting and fantastic. for the mind.

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564 MATTHEW S. MCGLONE

22. Dr. Ms lecture was all-you-can-eat for 16. Tina stirred a cauldron of trouble among
the mind. the members of her office pool.
23. Dr. Morelands lecture was a chocolate 17. Tina stirred up dissatisfaction among the
cake for the mind. members of her office pool.
24. Dr. Morelands lecture was a smorgas- 18. Tina captured the fish of rebellion in her
bord for the mind. office pool.
25. Dr. Morelands lecture was a flood of in- 19. Tina cast the first stone of discontent in
formation. her office pool.
26. Dr. Ms lecture was an Olympiad for the 20. Tina was the rock that started the ava-
mind. lanche of discontent in her office.
27. Dr. Ms class was an steak for the mind. 21. Tina was a be in the bonnet of her office
28. Dr. Morelands lecture was a trunkful of pool.
information. 22. Tina conducted her fellow office mem-
29. Dr. Morelands lecture was a mental bers in a chorus of moaning and groaning.
workout. 23. Tina kindled the fire of unrest among her
30. The lecture was a mouthful. office colleagues.
24. Tina laid an explosive foundation for rela-
2. Tina planted the seeds of discontent among tions among the office pool members.
the members of her office pool. 25. Tina fermented the discontent of the
1. Tina was like an imp when she upset the members of her office pool.
office members. 26. Tina was a planter of crabapples among
2. Tina was a grain of sand of dissatisfaction the orchard of her office pool.
among the sensitive folds of her office. 27. Tina buried explosive mines among the
3. Tina is a small crack in the foundation of . . .
her office pool. 28. Tina combined the ingredients to create
4. Tina infected members of her office pool discontent among members of her office
with the disease of discontent. pool.
5. Tina watered the flowers of discontent 29. Tina led the office pool in a chorus of
among the members of her office pool. self-pity.
6. Tina rocked the boat of contentment in 30. Tina was the sower of strife within the
her office pool. office pool.
7. Tina blew an ill wind of discontent
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