Creative Interpretations of Novel Conceptual Combinations in Aging

Nira Mashal, Shoshana Coblentz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Conceptual combinations may be interpreted by 3 main strategies: by attributing a feature of the modifying (head) noun into the modified noun (property interpretation); by establishing a relation between the 2 concepts (relational interpretation); or by combining properties of both nouns into a concept with new identity (hybridization). There exists limited evidence regarding the quality of interpretations older adults provide to novel conceptual combinations, and especially to novel metaphoric phrases. This study aimed to evaluate and compare age differences in strategies adopted for comprehending conceptual (noun noun) combinations. The aim of this study was, therefore, to examine the impact of aging on the ability to generate novel and creative semantic interpretations to unfamiliar word pairs. Participants included 41 healthy younger (mean age = 25.1) and 40 healthy older adults (mean age = 75.3). Participants were asked to write interpretations to novel metaphoric and meaningless noun-noun phrases. Relative to young adults, older participants generated more creative (hybridization) interpretations to novel metaphor and meaningless combinations. The second finding indicated that older adults generated fewer relational interpretations to the meaningless compounds. The results suggest that, relative to young adults, older adults generate more creative and highly integrative interpretations to conceptual combinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalCreativity Research Journal
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2014
StatePublished - Apr 2014


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