Understanding Visual Metaphor: Developmental and Individual Differences || Understanding Visual Metaphor: Developmental and Individual Differences

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  • Understanding Visual Metaphor: Developmental and Individual DifferencesAuthor(s): Nathan Kogan, Kathleen Connor, Augusta Gross and Donald FavaSource: Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Vol. 45, No. 1,Understanding Visual Metaphor: Developmental and Individual Differences (1980), pp. 1-78Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child DevelopmentStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1165832 .Accessed: 01/09/2014 13:21

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  • MONOGRAPHS OF THE SOCIETY FOR RESEARCH IN

    CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERIAL NO. 183, VOL. 45, NO. 1

    UNDERSTANDING VISUAL METAPHOR: DEVELOPMENTAL

    AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES

    NATHAN KOGAN KATHLEEN CONNOR

    AUGUSTA GROSS

    DONALD FAVA

    NEW SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH

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  • MONOGRAPHS OF THE SOCIETY FOR RESEARCH IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT, SERIAL NO. 183, NO. 1

    CONTENTS

    I. INTRODUCTION 1

    11. DEVELOPMENT OF A VISUAL METAPHOR TASK 11

    III. DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS AND INTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE METAPHORIC TRIADS TASK 19

    IV. EXTERNAL CORRELATES OF PERFORMANCE ON THE METAPHORIC TRIADS TASK 36

    V. TRAINING METAPHORIC THINKING 50

    VI. CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS 60

    REFERENCES 71

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 76

    APPENDIX: PICTORIAL REPRESENTATIONS OF THE METAPHORIC TRIADS TASK 77

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  • ABSTRACT

    KOGAN, NATHAN; CONNOR, KATHLEEN; GROSS, AUGUSTA; and FAVA, DONALD. Understanding Visual Metaphor: Developmental and Individual Differ- ences. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1980, 45(1, Serial No. 183).

    The development of an instrument-the Metaphoric Triads Task (MTT)-for the assessment of metaphoric comprehension is described. In the tradition of earlier cognitive-style research, a visual triad format was adopted that offered three possible pairings of pictorial stimuli, one of which was metaphorical in character. A subject's score reflects the number of metaphoric pairings formed (with appropriate metaphoric explanations) across all of the triads of the task. Data are reported for 12 samples of sub- jects (ranging from 7?2 to 28 years of age) who responded to the MTT in a diverse array of studies. Internal analyses of the MTT yielded satisfactory reliabilities (interjudge and internal consistency) and item-sum correlations. Sex differences were negligible, but progressive improvement in MTT score with age was noted. At the same time, a slight modification of the MTT triad format generated performance levels from younger children that approximated those of children 1-3 years older who had taken the MTT in its standard form. Higher MTT scores were generally obtained by those subjects who attempted more pairings, spent more time at the task, and chose the metaphoric pair as "best" among the alternative pairing possi- bilities. Correlations of MTT performance with standardized tests of intel- lective aptitudes and achievements were inconsistent across samples and between the sexes within samples. In contrast, MTT scores were quite con- sistently related to solving difficult analogies, generating high-quality re- sponses to divergent-thinking tasks, and manifesting broad categorizing and physiognomic sensitivity. Significant correlations between the MTT and a set of verbal metaphoric triads offered convergent validational evidence sug- gestive of a general metaphoric style. Some relation was found between MTT performance and teacher ratings of figurative language appreciation and esthetic sensitivity, though it appeared that these might be mediated by

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  • KOGAN ET AL.

    the teachers' estimate of the child's overall capability. Finally, three experi- mental training studies were carried out. A requirement of exhaustive pair- ing and informative feedback on pretest items significantly enhanced the MTT performance of the younger children. The provision of appropriate verbal labels for each picture in a triad also significantly enhanced perfor- mance by insuring that children's encoding of the pictures was consistent with the metaphoric linkage in each item.

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  • I. INTRODUCTION

    THE CHOICE OF VISUAL METAPHOR

    Metaphor in its most fundamental sense refers to similarity in the midst of difference. Yet, further reflection quickly reveals that such a definition is not entirely adequate. In typical concept-attainment tasks, for example, subjects deliberately search out the similarities among a diverse set of objects. Yet, no one would apply the label "metaphor" to that kind of abstractive process. Metaphor clearly entails a special kind of similarity, one that over- rides conventional category boundaries and brings together objects or events that normally belong to different domains.

    Metaphor is typically expressed through the medium of words, and possibly achieves its ultimate expression in the figurative language of poetry. There is good reason to believe, however, that metaphor is a cognitive rather than a strictly linguistic phenomenon, for examples of nonverbal metaphor can readily be found. Such examples have often been subsumed under other constructs, but the link between such constructs and metaphoric operations would appear to be close. For example, synesthesia (e.g., Marks 1975, 1978; Osgood 1953, 1960) concerns cross-modality matching-that is, sensitivity to the similarities between visual, auditory, tactile, and other types of sensory stimuli. As Osgood notes, an exciting piece of music may be matched with a patch of red color or verbally described as "fiery." Though the former has typically been classified as synesthesia, and the latter as a musical metaphor, it is dubious whether different psychological processes are involved. Indeed, in a recent developmental study of cross-modality matching, Gardner (1974) has employed the term "synesthetic metaphors."

    Another construct that overlaps with metaphor is "physiognomic per- ception" (Werner 1948; Werner & Kaplan 1963). This refers to the fusion of postural-affective states and objectively "neutral" stimuli (e.g., the attribution of emotional properties to line patterns). Wallach and Kogan (1965), for example, had children match emotions expressed in the Light- foot pictures (Engen, Levy, & Schlosberg 1957) with line drawings taken from Steinberg (1960). The children were also asked to describe various

    1

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  • MONOGRAPHS

    line drawings in words. Again, it is highly likely that similar psychological processes are at work, and it would certainly be reasonable to speak of

    "physiognomic metaphors." It is then apparent that we are not doing violence to the constructs of

    synesthesia and physiognomic perception when we place them under the rubric of nonverbal metaphor. Both rest on the capacity to define an event or object from one category in terms of the attributes of objects or events that belong to a different category. But one can extend the argument for nonverbal metaphor further by demonstrating the ease with which verbal

    metaphors can be converted into nonverbal forms. Consider the statement, "The river lazily snakes its way to the sea." The comprehension of such a

    metaphor can be readily examined in the visual realm by appropriate pic- torial representations of a winding river and a coiled snake. An obvious reason for the ease of such a verbal-visual conversion is suggested by Ver-

    brugge (1977). That author argues that figurative language is simply a vehicle to express the "novel perception of resemblances." In other words, figurative language evokes images, and it is the cognitive operation in this nonverbal realm that represents the mediating process in metaphor inter- pretation. A similar argument has been recently advanced by Paivio (1979).' This then further imp