Empiral studies of Conceptual Metaphor

Javier Valenzuela Manzanares (University of Murcia)

The Theory of Conceptual Metaphor (TCM) is arguably the most influential among the different theories that form the cognitive linguistic enterprise. One of the reasons has to be found in its bold proposal: metaphors are not just ways of speaking but ways of thinking. This has attracted the attention of researchers interested in the structure of cognition, who have been examining the theory with their array of empirical tools.

In this talk, we will review studies that have tried to show that cognitive metaphors are not merely linguistic devices but reveal patterns in our thought.  We will devote our attention to three areas: first, we will look at a number of psycholinguistic experiments aimed at showing the automatic connections between source and target domains; then, we will review research that has examined the role of metaphorical thinking in decision making and reasoning; and finally, we will examine the close interactions between metaphorical thinking and multimodal behaviour.


Alcaraz-Carrión, D., Alibali, M. & J. Valenzuela (2022). Adding and substracting by hand: metaphorical representation of arithmetic in spontaneous co-speech gestures. Acta Pyschologica 228, 103624

Landau, M. J., Meier, B.P. and L.A. Keefer. (2010). A Metaphor-Enriched Social Cognition. Psychological Bulletin 136(6):1045–67.

Lee, S. W., and Schwarz, N. (2014). Metaphors in judgment and decision making, in The Power of Metaphor: Examining its Influence on Social Life, eds M. J. Landau, M. D. Robinson, and B. P. Meier (Washington, DC: APA), 85–108. doi: 10.1037/14278-005

Thibodeau, P.H., Matlock, T. and Flusberg, , S.J. (2019). The role of metaphor in communication and thought. Lang Linguist Compass, 13 (2019), Article e12327

Valenzuela, J., Cánovas, C. P., Olza, I., & Carrión, D. A. (2020). Gesturing in the wild: Evidence for a flexible mental timeline. Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 18(2), 289-315.


Quantum Cognition, Concepts, and Compositional Semantics

Reinhard Blutner (University of Amsterdam)

 Geometric models of concepts and meaning have become very popular within the last couple of decades (Suppes, Krantz, Luce, & Tversky, 1989; Torgerson, 1965; Tversky, 1977; Widdows, 2004). Quantum cognition can be seen as further developing this approach, both empirically and theoretically. After giving a brief overview of the history and development of quantum cognition in the last two decades, a will consider three aspects in more detail using vivid geometric ideas.

In the first part, I will consider in detail the structure of concepts, starting with explaining the difference between vagueness and prototypicality. Specially, I will consider the work of John Hampton (Hampton, 1988a, 1988b, 2007) and I will show how we can model his empirical findings by using quantum probabilities.

 In the second part, I will consider the case of adjectival modification as a standard application of compositional semantics.  In particular, I will consider the case of borderline contradictions such as “x  is tall and not tall”, which are considered true by almost 50% of subjects judge in borderline cases (Alxatib & Pelletier, 2011; Blutner, Pothos, & Bruza, 2013).

 In the third part, I will discuss a methodological point by making the comparison between distributional semantics and quantum cognition. Both fields of research  have many things in common: (i) they both follow a geometric conception of meaning; (ii) they both use vectors and inner products (Hilbert spaces) as basic modelling tools; (iii) they both try to make sense of compositionality in order to account for the recursivity of language. However, there is a mainly philosophical discrepancy: Whereas distributional semantics sees meanings as „meanings that are in the text”, quantum cognition follows cognitive standards and sees meanings as „meanings that are in our minds”.  The practical and theoretical consequences of this difference are discussed.


Alxatib, S., & Pelletier, J. (2011). On the psychology of truth-gaps. In R. Nouwen, R. van Rooij, U. Sauerland & H.-C. Schmitz (Eds.), Vagueness in Communication (pp. 13-36). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Blutner, R., Pothos, E. M., & Bruza, P. (2013). A Quantum Probability Perspective on Borderline Vagueness. Topics in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 711-736.

Hampton, J. (1988a). Disjunction of natural concepts. Memory and Cognition, 16(579-591).

Hampton, J. (1988b). Overextension of Conjunctive Concepts: Evidence for a Unitary Model of Concept Typicality and Class Inclusion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14(1), 12-32.

Hampton, J. (2007). Typicality, graded membership, and vagueness. Cognitive Science, 31, 355-384.

Suppes, P., Krantz, D. H., Luce, R. D., & Tversky, A. (1989). Foundations of measurement: Geometrical, threshold, and probabilistic representations. London: Academic Press.

Torgerson, W. S. (1965). Multidimensional scaling of similarity. Psychometrika, 30, 379-393.

Tversky, A. (1977). Features of similarity. Psychological Review, 84, 327-352.

Widdows, D. (2004). Geometry and Meaning. Stanford University: CSLI.