Inhibition of the non-deliberate: investigating metaphor awareness during metaphor comprehension

Topic and scope
This research project will investigate how the reading and comprehension of deliberate and non-deliberate metaphor stimuli affects the semantic priming of metaphor-relevant and metaphor-irrelevant source-domain words.
The experimental approach will closely resemble a study by Glucksberg, Newsome, and Goldvarg (2001), which showed that metaphor-based stimuli primed the identification of metaphor-relevant literal cue statements. For instance, the use of a prime such as my lawyer is a shark (expressing the conceptually salient property of the lawyer’s shark-like viciousness) promoted earlier and higher degrees of correct (true/false) assessments of metaphor-relevant statements, such as geese are vicious. No such statistically significant effects were found when using either metaphor-irrelevant cues (e.g. geese can swim) or literal priming sentences (e.g. the hammerhead is a shark) followed by either metaphor-relevant or irrelevant cue statements; leading the authors to argue that metaphor use inhibits literal readings and promotes figurative comprehension.
This study will extend the line of reasoning found in Glucksberg et al., and supplement it with current research and findings from deliberate metaphor theory. With the use of stimuli spanning both literal statements, deliberate and non-deliberate metaphors, the experimental approach will focus on investigating whether the use of different types of metaphorical expressions similarly results in semantic priming of strongly associated source-domain properties. In line with the claims of deliberate metaphor theory, this effect is hypothesized to be most prevalent when using deliberate metaphorical prime sentences and metaphor-relevant (true/false) cue assertions–since deliberate metaphor use demands conceptual cross-domain mapping and promotes a reading of metaphor as a metaphor (cf. e.g. Steen, 2015). The experimental outcome of this study will provide empirical data, serving to contrast the conceptual claims in both conceptual metaphor theory and deliberate metaphor theory.
Duration January – June 2016
Research question Which exclusive characteristics do deliberate metaphors exhibit, and why are these suitable for promoting cross-domain mappings between multiple conceptual domains? Are deliberate metaphors generally perceived as metaphors, and if so, how does this affect source-domain recognition? Are conceptual metaphors a fundamental and automatic part of human cognition, as proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980)? 
Method Theoretical review, experimental research
Status Research project (26 ECTS) for the Research Master’s Programme in Brain and Cognitive Sciences (University of Amsterdam)
Researcher and supervisors Researcher: Mikael Skagenholt
Supervisors: Gerard Steen, Christian Burgers
Funding N/A