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The aesthetic paradox in processing conventional and non-conventional metaphors: A reaction time study

Christmann, Ursula, Wimmer, Lena Franziska, Groeben, Norbert (2011) The aesthetic paradox in processing conventional and non-conventional metaphors: A reaction time study. Scientific Study of Literature, 1 (2). pp. 199-240. ISSN 2210-4372. (doi:10.1075/ssol.1.2.03chr) (KAR id:69263)


This study focuses on the relationship between cognitive effort and aesthetic-emotional evaluation in the processing of conventional and non-conventional metaphors. We postulate that an increased cognitive load — which is normally perceived as stressful — is evaluated positively when processing non-conventional metaphors. We have called this contradictory suspense ‘aesthetic paradox’. The aesthetic paradox was tested in two studies that differed in degree of processing demand. In study 1 (low processing demand) participants (N?=?40) read (non-)conventional metaphors, judged the adequacy of two metaphor paraphrases and assessed their own interpretation process. In study 2 (high processing demand) the same procedure was applied with the exception that participants (N?=?40) evaluated the appropriateness of one metaphor paraphrase. The results of both experiments confirm that non-conventional metaphors require longer reading and longer processing times than conventional metaphors, and they confirm the postulated paradoxical effect: the increase of cognitive effort in processing non-conventional metaphors is evaluated positively, provided that a satisfactory interpretation is found.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1075/ssol.1.2.03chr
Uncontrolled keywords: (non-)conventional metaphors , aesthetic evaluation , aesthetic paradox , aesthetic reception attitude , cognitive effort and metaphor processing
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Lena Wimmer
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 11:58 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Wimmer, Lena Franziska.

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