Individual Differences in Both Fluid and Crystalized Intelligence Predict Metaphor Comprehension

AbstractThe nature of the mental processes involved in metaphor comprehension has been the focus of debate. Research related to this debate has mainly examined the comprehension of simple nominal metaphors. Here we take an individual-differences approach to examine the comprehension of slightly more complex metaphors, some taken from literary sources, using two types of comprehension tests (selecting an overall interpretation or else selecting a completion). In a series of metaphor-comprehension experiments with college students, we measured both fluid intelligence (using the non-verbal Raven’s Progressive Matrices test) and crystalized verbal intelligence (using a new Semantic Similarities Test). Each measure had a dissociable predictive relationship to metaphor comprehension, at least for those of the more complex literary variety. The pattern of individual differences suggests that metaphor comprehension broadly depends on both crystalized and fluid intelligence, with the latter less important for relatively simple metaphors.

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