Publication details [#9216]

Richardson, Daniel and Teenie Matlock. 2006. The integration of figurative language and static depictions: An eye movement study of fictive motion. Cognition. URL


Do we view the world differently if it is described to us in figurative rather than literal terms? An answer to this question would reveal something about both the conceptual representation of figurative language and the scope of top down influences on scene perception. Previous work has shown that participants will look longer at a path region of a picture when it is described with a type of figurative language called fictive motion ('The road goes through the desert') rather than without ('The road is in the desert'). The current experiment provided evidence that such fictive motion descriptions affect eye movements by evoking mental representations of motion. If participants heard contextual information that would hinder actual motion, it influenced how they viewed a picture when it was described with fictive motion. Inspection times and eye movements scanning along the path increased during fictive motion descriptions when the terrain was first described as difficult (The desert is hilly) as compared to easy (The desert is flat); there were no such effects for descriptions without fictive motion. It is argued that fictive motion evokes a mental simulation of motion that is immediately integrated with visual processing, and hence figurative language can have a distinct effect on perception. (Daniel Richardson and Teenie Mattlock)