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Brain Res. 2019 Jul 1;1714:202-209. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 Mar 7.

Concrete processing of action metaphors: Evidence from ERP.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science Program, University of Arizona, 1503 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. Electronic address: tzuyinlai@email.arizona.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, 1512 Pendelton Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, 1512 Pendelton Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. Electronic address: desairutvik@gmail.com.

Abstract

The timing of sensory-motor activation during the comprehension of action verbs used in a metaphorical sense is not well understood. In the present Event Related Potential (ERP) study, participants read verbs in metaphoric (The church bent the rules), literal-concrete (The bodyguard bent the rod), and literal-abstract (The church altered the rules) conditions. The literal concreteness effect, obtained by subtracting the abstract from the concrete, was revealed as an N400, frontally distributed. A metaphoric effect, obtained in the metaphor-abstract contrast, was a widespread N400, and included the frontal response seen in the literal concreteness effect. Another metaphoric effect, obtained in the metaphor-concrete contrast, was a posterior N400. Further time window analyses showed that the literal concreteness effect primarily came from 200 to 300 ms, the metaphoric-concrete effect primarily came from 200 to 400 ms, and the metaphoric-abstract effect was significant throughout 200-500 ms. These results suggest that a concrete but underspecified meaning consistent with metaphoric and literal readings, was activated early and was sustained throughout the 200-500 ms window. We concluded that the metaphoric sense is based in concrete action semantics, even if these senses are underspecified.

KEYWORDS:

Concreteness; ERP; Grounded cognition; Metaphor; Semantics; Sentence processing

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