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Stimulus design is an obstacle course: 560 matched literal and metaphorical sentences for testing neural hypotheses about metaphor

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Despite the ubiquity and importance of metaphor in thought and communication, its neural mediation remains elusive. We suggest that this uncertainty reflects, in part, stimuli that have not been designed with recent conceptual frameworks in mind or that have been hampered by inadvertent differences between metaphoric and literal conditions. In this article, we begin addressing these shortcomings by developing a large, flexible, extensively normed, and theoretically motivated set of metaphoric and literal sentences. On the basis of the results of three norming studies, we provide 280 pairs of closely matched metaphoric and literal sentences that are characterized along 10 dimensions: length, frequency, concreteness, familiarity, naturalness, imageability, figurativeness, interpretability, valence, and valence judgment reaction time. In addition to allowing for control of these potentially confounding lexical and sentential factors, these stimuli are designed to address questions about the role of novelty, metaphor type, and sensory-motor grounding in determining the neural basis of metaphor comprehension. Supplemental data for this article may be downloaded from http://brm.psychonomic-journals .org/content/supplemental.


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Correspondence to Eileen R. Cardillo.

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This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R01-HD-050199-01A2 and R01-DC-008779-01 awarded to A.C.

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Cardillo, E.R., Schmidt, G.L., Kranjec, A. et al. Stimulus design is an obstacle course: 560 matched literal and metaphorical sentences for testing neural hypotheses about metaphor. Behavior Research Methods 42, 651–664 (2010). https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.3.651

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  • Metaphor
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Base Term
  • Norming Study
  • Auditory Imagery