Mental imagery and metaphor

Alex Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper focuses on the nature of mental imagery as a component of human cognition. Imagery has been considered as mere epiphenomena and unable to alter belief. However, recent evidence in neuroscience and psycholinguistics suggest that the mental image can be accessed and interact with higher order processes of cognition in the determination of speaker meaning. If this is true, then mental imagery can play a role during the comprehension procedure for metaphoric utterances. To understand the reasons why mental images have been discarded from linguistic theories of utterance comprehension, past philosophical ideas about the mental image are discussed. Many have questioned the existence of the image, stating that they are, in fact, constituted by propositional components. These perspectives fit within a theory of the mind that conforms to an amodal symbol system in which the relation between perceptual input and mental representation is an arbitrary one. This paper is suggesting that the mind follows a perceptual symbol system, and that the relation is an analogous one. Therefore, through an extension of relevance theory, it is possible to flesh out the meaning of metaphors by incorporating this embodied view of the mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-32
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2015

Bibliographical note

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  • Mental imagery
  • Propositional and non-propositional
  • Amodal symbol systems
  • Perceptual symbol systems


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