Automatic processing of metaphor in right hemisphere lesion patients


While metaphor comprehension deficits were initially reported in right hemisphere lesion patients (RHLs), more recent work fails to find such deficits. One possibility is that the metalinguistic tasks typically used only uncover conscious, controlled comprehension processes. We tested the hypothesis that chronic RHLs would show a deficit in a task that taps automatic processes, even if their performance on a metalinguistic task was not abnormal. Nine RHL were tested on a sentence/matching-word lexical decision priming task with literal and metaphorical sentences and a short SOA. Nine left hemisphere lesion patients and thirteen age and education matched healthy adults served as controls. A two-way mixed ANOVA revealed a main effect of sentence type (F(1,28) = 7.0, p = .01) but no effect of group. All three groups showed larger priming effects for literal sentences (M=70ms SD=70ms) than for metaphorical sentences (M=34ms, SD=68ms). These data suggest chronic RHLs do not have metaphor comprehension deficits even with an automatic processing task.

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