When Do Vehicles Of Similes Become Figurative? Gaze Patterns Show That Similes And Metaphors Are Initially Processed Differently

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Published In

CogSci 2017: Proceedings Of The 39th Annual Meeting Of The Cognitive Science Society


Recent emphases on differences between metaphors and similes pose a quandary. The two forms clearly differ in strength, but often seem to require similar interpretations. In Experiment 1 we show that ratings of comprehensibility are highly correlated across simile and metaphor sentences differing only in the presence or absence of “like”. In Experiment 2 we show that comprehensibility ratings for figurative forms predict both early (first pass) and late (second pass) fixation durations for metaphor vehicle, but only late fixation durations for vehicles in similes. Simile vehicles appear to initially be processed similarly to literal comparisons, with figurative interpretation occurring later. These observations are consistent with the different pragmatic strengths, and similar interpretations of the two forms.


R. Granger, U. Hahn, and R. Sutton


39th Annual Meeting Of The Cognitive Science Society

Conference Dates

July 26-29, 2017

Conference Location

London, UK