Publication details [#939]

van Weelden, Lisanne. 2013. Evidence for the role of shape in mental representations of similes. Cognitive Science 38 (2) : 303–321. 19 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Wiley Online Library


This paper investigates the role that shape plays in the mental representation of similes. In this study, similes are understood as metaphoric comparisons. Researchers conducted two experiments to test the prediction that when people process a simile they mentally represent the entities of comparison as having a similar shape. In both experiments participants had to read sentences that invited them to compare two entities. The difference between both experiments was that in Experiment 1 participants read sentences whose ground of the comparison was explicit ("X has the ability to Z, just like Y") while in Experiment 2 was implicit ("X is like Y"). In a second phase of the experiments participants had to look at line drawings of the two objects, which were either similarly or dissimilarly shaped and had to judge if the objects had been mentioned in the sentences of the preceding experiments. Results of the study indicate that recognition latencies were shorter for similarly shaped objects than for objects dissimilarly shaped for the experimental sentences, as opposed to control sentences. These results lead us to conclude that when processing similes a perceptual symbol of shape is activated.