Metaphorical sentences are more emotionally engaging than their literal counterparts

Francesca M.M. Citron, Adele E. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Why do people so often use metaphorical expressions when literal paraphrases are readily available? This study focuses on a comparison of metaphorical statements involving the source domain of taste (e.g., “She looked at him sweetly”) and their literal paraphrases (e.g., “She looked at him kindly”). Metaphorical and literal sentences differed only in one word and were normed for length, familiarity, imageability, emotional valence, and arousal. Our findings indicate that conventional metaphorical expressions are more emotionally evocative than literal expressions, as the amygdala and the anterior portion of the hippocampus were more active in the metaphorical sentences. They also support the idea that even conventional metaphors can be grounded in sensorimotor and perceptual representations in that primary and secondary gustatory areas (lateral OFC, frontal operculum, anterior insula) were more active as well. A comparison of the individual words that distinguished the metaphorical and literal sentences revealed greater activation in the lateral OFC and the frontal operculum for the taste-related words, supporting the claim that these areas are relevant to taste.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2585-2595
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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