Non-literal understanding and psychosis: Metaphor comprehension in individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia

Felicity Deamer, Ellen Palmer, Quoc Vuong, Nicol Ferrier, Andreas Finkelmeyer, Wolfram Hinzen, Stuart Watson

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Previous studies suggest that understanding of non-literal expressions, and in particular metaphors, can be impaired in people with schizophrenia; although it is not clear why. We explored metaphor comprehension capacity using a novel picture selection paradigm; we compared task performance between people with schizophrenia and healthy comparator subjects and we further examined the relationships between the ability to interpret figurative expressions non-literally and performance on a number of other cognitive tasks. Eye-tracking was used to examine task strategy. We showed that even when IQ, years of education, and capacities for theory of mind and associative learning are factored in as covariates, patients are significantly more likely to interpret metaphorical expressions literally, despite eye-tracking findings suggesting that patients are following the same interpretation strategy as healthy controls. Inhibitory control deficits are likely to be one of multiple factors contributing to the poorer performance of our schizophrenia group on the metaphor trials of the picture selection task
Original languageEnglish
Article number100159
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
Early online date26 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND license and permits non-commercial use of the work as published, without adaptation or alteration provided the work is fully attributed.


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