Right hemisphere sensitivity to novel metaphoric relations: Application of the signal detection theory

N. Mashal, M. Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The present study used the signal detection theory to test the hypothesis that the right hemisphere (RH) is more sensitive than the left hemisphere (LH) to the distant semantic relations in novel metaphoric expressions. In two divided visual field experiments, sensitivity (d′) and criterion (β) were calculated for responses to different types of word pairs. In the first experiment, subjects were presented with unfamiliar two-word novel metaphoric expressions ("signal") and unrelated word-pairs ("noise"). In the second experiment, literal expressions ("signal") and unrelated word pairs ("noise") were presented. In line with the Coarse Semantic Coding Theory [Beeman, M. (1998). Coarse semantic coding and discourse comprehension. In: M. Beeman & C. Chiarello (Eds.). Right hemisphere language comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive neuroscience. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 255-284.] as well as with the Graded Salience Hypothesis [Giora, R. (2003). On our mind: Salience, context and figurative language. New York: Oxford University Press.], the findings suggest that the RH is more sensitive than the LH to unfamiliar metaphoric relations. Furthermore, this RH advantage in processing distant semantic relations did not extend to familiar semantic relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Partial support for this work was provided by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) Grant No. 2003317. We thank Inna Schneiderman for her useful assistance in conducting the first experiment.


  • Criterion
  • Hemispheres
  • Metaphors
  • Salience
  • Sensitivity
  • Signal detection


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