The early processing of metaphors and similes: Evidence from eye movements

Jane Ashby, Carlos Roncero, Roberto G. De Almeida, Stephen J. Agauas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This eye movement study examined how people read nominal metaphors and similes in order to investigate how the surface form, or wording, of these expressions affected early processing. Participants silently read metaphors (knowledge is a river) and similes (knowledge is like a river). The identical words were used in the topic-vehicle pair (knowledge-river) in both conditions. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrated longer reading times and a higher proportion of regressions in metaphors than in similes. Familiarity modulated later metaphor effects in Experiment 1, but not in Experiment 2. Reading ability did not modulate the metaphor effects in Experiment 2. Results indicate that readers revised their initial interpretation of metaphors before moving on to read new text. This suggests that readers did not initially hold figurative interpretations of apt nominal metaphors that are somewhat familiar. Metaphor interpretation may be fast, but it is not easy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1 Special Issue
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Eye movements
  • Metaphor
  • Reading


Dive into the research topics of 'The early processing of metaphors and similes: Evidence from eye movements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this