Context, but not proficiency, moderates the effects of metaphor framing: A case study in India


Metaphors suffuse language and affect how people think. A meta-analysis of metaphor framing studies conducted between 1983 and 2000 concluded that metaphors are about 6% more persuasive than literal language (Sopory & Dillard, 2002). However, each of these studies was conducted in English with samples drawn from populations of native English speakers. Here, we test whether and how language proficiency moderates the influence of metaphor frames. Sampling from a population of non-native, but generally proficient, English speakers from India, we found that metaphor frames systematically affected people who reported using English primarily in informal contexts (i.e., among friends and family and through the media) but not for people who reported using English primarily in formal contexts (i.e., for school or work). We discuss implications of this finding for countries like the US, where English is increasingly a non-native language for its residents, and for theories of language processing.

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