Publication details [#64178]

Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. and Elaine Chen. 2018. Metaphor and the automatic mind. Metaphor and the Social World 8 (1) : 40–63.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


When people produce or understand verbal metaphors, and metaphoric gestures, do they do so automatically or with conscious deliberation? Metaphor scholars widely recognize that the answer to this question depends on several factors, including the specific kind of metaphor that was produced or understood. But many scholars assume that the automatic use of metaphor involves the simple retrieval of its figurative meaning, without having to draw any cross-domain mappings. This article argues that automaticity in behavior, such as when using verbal metaphors, actually involves many complex embodied and conceptual processes, even if these may operate quickly and without conscious attention. The article reviews the evidence for this claim, and considers other attempts to explore automaticity in metaphoric experiences, such as in 20th-century automatic writing practices. Its argument provides another set of reasons, from cognitive science research, to reject simplistic assumptions that automatic metaphor behavior is necessarily different in kind from more conscious metaphor use and understanding.