Research

We use behavioral, electrophysiological (EEG), and imaging (fMRI) methods to examine the cognitive processes and the neural basis of meaning and language in context. Topics under active investigation include

(1) Figurative language: How do people process metaphorical language? Do metaphors help abstract concept learning, such as the learning of science concepts? What are the social-affective functions of metaphors? What is the relationship between metaphor and mental health?

Learning science with metaphors (Lai, Delikishkina)
The expressive and regulatory roles of metaphor for emotion (Lai, Ku)
Irony and negative emotion (Pfeifer, Maytorena, Lai)
Metaphor use and depression in breast cancer narratives (Lai, Pfeifer)
Metaphor framing of anxiety and mental health (Tidwell)
Neural correlates of visual metaphor processing (Pfeifer, Lai)
Literality, predictability, and decomposability in idioms (Hubbard, Bulkes)

(2) Emotion and language: How is emotion encoded in language? How do language activities such as reading give rise to emotion? How do readers’ mood states influence meaning making in language? How does language affect emotion?

Emoji and social stress in emotionally ambiguous text messages (Armstrong, Pfeifer)
Processing emotional aspects in non-literal language: Irony and mental states (Pfeifer)
Emotional word recognition in healthy aging: Positivity or reduced negativity bias (Ku)
Personality traits and emotional word recognition (Ku)
The mental representation and social aspect of expressives/swearing (Donahoo)
The social aspect of swearing: A cross-dialectal perspective (Sendek, Donahoo)
Meaning and structure in ambiguous multiword expressions (Brown)

(3) Language and thought in bilinguals: Do differences in languages influence how speakers of those languages perceive and reason about the world?

The influence of verbal aspect on the mental simulation of actions (Katikhina)
Representation of motion events in Polish-English bilinguals (Georges, Katikhina)