Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 800–812 | Cite as

Semantic properties, aptness, familiarity, conventionality, and interpretive diversity scores for 84 metaphors and similes



For 84 unique topic–vehicle pairs (e.g., knowledge–power), participants produced associated properties for the topics (e.g., knowledge), vehicles (e.g., power), metaphors (knowledge is power), and similes (knowledge is like power). For these properties, we also obtained frequency, saliency, and connotativeness scores (i.e., how much the properties deviated from the denotative or literal meaning). In addition, we examined whether expression type (metaphor vs. simile) impacted the interpretations produced. We found that metaphors activated more salient properties than did similes, but the connotativeness levels for metaphor and simile salient properties were similar. Also, the two types of expressions did not differ across a wide range of measures collected: aptness, conventionality, familiarity, and interpretive diversity scores. Combined with the property lists, these interpretation norms constitute a thorough collection of data about metaphors and similes, employing the same topic–vehicle words, which can be used in psycholinguistic and cognitive neuroscience studies to investigate how the two types of expressions are represented and processed. These norms should be especially useful for studies that examine the online processing and interpretation of metaphors and similes, as well as for studies examining how properties related to metaphors and similes affect the interpretations produced.


Metaphor Simile Semantic norms Aptness Conventionality Familiarity Interpretive diversity (entropy) Figurative language 


Author note

This study was supported by graduate fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada to C.R., and by a grant from SSHRC to R.G.d.A. We thank Effie Andreadakis for organizing and tabulating the associated property lists, and are grateful to Gregory Francis and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions on an earlier version of this article.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General HospitalMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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