Psychology 4195F-001

Special Topics in Cognitive Psychology: The Psychology of Non-Literal Language

(The processing of metaphor, sarcasm and other forms of language in which one’s intended meaning differs from what one says)

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


Selected topics of current interest in Cognitive Psychology.


                Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E, or both Psychology 2800E and 2810, plus registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology, Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, or Honours Specialization in Neuroscience.


                Other Psychology students and Psychology Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enroll in this course

3 seminar hours, 0.5 course


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record.  This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


 Instructor:   Dr. Albert N. Katz

 Office and Phone Rm. 7412; 519-661-3681

 Office Hours:   By appointment


 Time and Location of Lectures:  Tuesdays 1:30-4:30 SH 3355

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you. Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


There is no textbook but there is a set of required readings. All of these readings are available in our library or can be found through a search mechanism used by our library (such as Scholars Portal). To facilitate matters I will download access to each paper in OWL Resources for this course.



The primary purpose of this course is to critically evaluate research and theory on how we are able to process non-literal language, such as metaphor or irony, especially given the ease and ubiquity with which we do so. We will examine a variety of non-literal language forms and the various methods by which they are studied by cognitive scientists, linguists, experimental psychologists and pragmatists. In addition to lectures, students will be asked to go into depth on a topic of their choosing (in consultation with Dr. Katz). Experience with a specific topic will be assessed (and facilitated) through the development of an annotated bibliography, class discussion and a research proposal.


For the first part of the term, Dr. Katz will lecture to provide a broad background on specific issues in the study of figurative language. A specific paper or two on a given topic will be made available a week before the class (see section 7.0 for lecture schedule) and students will be required to write a short précis of the article and to come to class with a set of questions they would like addressed based on the week’s reading.


Starting in (or even before) lecture 1, and working with Dr. Katz, each student will come up with a topic area they would like to pursue in more depth. This topic will be the basis for a subsequent annotated bibliography and a research proposal. Weekly meetings will be built around lectures, discussions and (later in the course) a student talk on their research topic.


Learning Outcome: By the end of course, the successful student should be able to

Learning Activity


demonstrate basic understanding by accurately defining and discriminating between major term, theories and concepts used in the study of figurative language

- Reading, critiquing and discussing assigned papers

- preparing class presentation


Mid-term test (multiple choice/ short answer)


demonstrate in-depth knowledge on a select topic in figurative language


- Critiquing assigned papers

- creating (writing) an annotated bibliography on a topic chosen by the student, in consultation with course instructor


-grading of annotated bibliography on the following dimensions: how comprehensive in terms of number of studies reported, comprehensiveness of the summaries of the studies , insightfulness of strengths and weaknesses of the studies

deliver a well-organized oral presentation in a clear and engaging manner.


giving an oral presentation  to the class on their research topic

-clarity and organization of presentation, adequacy of powerpoint slides, ability to engage audience and answer questions

demonstrate mastery on a specific topic by reading, integrating findings from a set of papers, generating a testable research hypothesis and writing a research proposal on a specific issue in figurative language


Integrating papers on a select topic in figurative language


identifying a researchable question


writing a research proposal within a defined word limit

 Criteria used in grading the proposal

-cohesiveness and grammaticality of writing style

- comprehensiveness of literature review

- argument for why the study adds to knowledge

- adequacy of experimental design, including description of how the data would be gathered, nature of dataset expected and how analyzed




Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


WEEKLY PAPER: 14% - For each class (2% per class starting in week 2): student must write (and hand in) a summary of one of the papers to-be-read for that week AND prepare at least one question that they would like answered (about procedure, or theory, or about a research idea they have suggested by their reading); student is expected to participate in class discussions. If you miss class you can still get 1% if you hand-in a summary before the next class.



ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: 16% - BY November 3rd: Prepare and distribute to each student in the class an annotated bibliography on your research topic. Bibliography for period starting 1990.


MIDTERM TEST 25%: Students are responsible for material presented in ALL the readings (including those on which the weekly report was not done) AND on material presented in lectures by Dr. Katz. TEST ON Nov. 7


STUDENT CLASS PRESENTATION: 15% -Class presentations (10% on presentation of the research proposal itself and 5% on the discussion questions to lead a short discussion). Students will be scheduled sometime between Nov. 17- Dec 5, with the specific date for a student to present determined by picking out of a hat.


RESEARCH PROPOSAL: 30% - December (last teaching day of term) : Formal write up of research proposal, in APA format, due no later than Dec 8


Note: You must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.


Dr. Katz will lecture initially. Each class will involve consultation with students on development of their research proposal. Later classes will be “led” by course participants presenting an outline of their research project to their fellow students.


Week 1 Sept 12 TOPIC:  What is meant by non-literal language; overview of different tropes.

                        READINGS: Roberts, R. M., & Kreuz, R. J. (1994). Why do people use figurative language?. Psychological Science, 5(3), 159-163.


Katz, A. N. (1996). Experimental psycholinguistics and figurative language: Circa 1995. Metaphor and Symbol, 11(1), 17-37



Week 2: Sept 19 TOPIC    Metaphor: the standard pragmatic model of comprehension

                        READINGS: Glucksberg, S. (1991). Beyond literal meanings: The psychology of allusion. Psychological Science, 2(3), 146-152.


Giora, R. (1997). Understanding figurative and literal language: The graded salience hypothesis. Cognitive Linguistics (includes Cognitive Linguistic Bibliography), 8(3), 183-206.


Week 3  Sept 26 TOPIC    Irony and Sarcasm

                        READINGS:   Campbell, J. D., & Katz, A. N. (2012). Are there necessary conditions for inducing a sense of sarcastic irony? Discourse Processes, 49(6), 459-480.


Gibbs, R. W. (2000). Irony in talk among friends. Metaphor and symbol, 15(1-2), 5-27.



 Week 4 Oct 3    Production of figurative language

                        READINGS: Katz, A. N. (1989). On choosing the vehicles of metaphors: Referential concreteness, semantic distances, and individual differences. Journal of Memory and language, 28(4), 486-499.


Hussey, K. A., & Katz, A. N. (2006). Metaphor production in online conversation: Gender and friendship status. Discourse processes, 42(1), 75-98.




Week 5 Oct 17     Proverbs and Idioms

                        READINGS: Gibbs, R. W. (1992). What do idioms really mean?Journal of memory and language, 31(4), 485-506.


Turner, N. E., & Katz, A. N. (1997). The availability of conventional and of literal meaning during the comprehension of proverbs. Pragmatics & Cognition, 5(2), 199-233.



Week 6  Oct 24    Conceptual metaphor theory

                        READINGS: Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). The metaphorical structure of the human conceptual system. Cognitive science, 4(2), 195-208.


Katz, A. N., & Taylor, T. E. (2008). The journeys of life: Examining a conceptual metaphor with semantic and episodic memory recall. Metaphor and Symbol, 23(3), 148-173.




Week 7  Oct 31   Embodiment

                        READINGS: Gibbs, R. W. (2006). Metaphor interpretation as embodied simulation. Mind & Language, 21(3), 434-458.


Bowes, A., & Katz, A. (2015). Metaphor creates intimacy and temporarily enhances theory of mind. Memory & cognition, 43(6), 953-963.





Midterm Test November 7 (Followed by lecture)



Week 8  Nov 7    The wave of the future (and present); corpus linguistics, Brain imaging

                        READINGS: Katz, A. N., Blasko, D. G., & Kazmerski, V. A. (2004). Saying what you don't mean: Social influences on sarcastic language processing. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(5), 186-189.


Deignan, A. (2008). Corpus linguistics and metaphor. In the The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought (Edited by R.W. Gibbs), (chapter 16, pp 280-294).



 Weeks 9 -12  (Nov 17-Dec 5)   

                                                STUDENT-LED DISCUSSIONS ON ISSUE ARISING FROM RESEARCH TOPICS


MID-TERM TEST (2 hours)





Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.