Francesca Citron su “Figurative language plays an important role in evoking emotion: Neuroscientific evidence”

Venerdì 18 marzo 2016, ore 10.00

Sala Riunioni di Palazzo Venera (Via Santa Maria, 36, II piano)

Francesca Citron (Univ. di Lancaster)

terrà una lezione su:

Figurative language plays an important role in evoking emotion: Neuroscientific evidence


Research on language has shown that the emotional content of verbal material affects comprehension of single words, sentences, as well as texts. This research mainly focused on literal language. However, figurative language may play an important role in conveying emotion. Recent neuroimaging evidence from our lab showed that conventional metaphors related to taste, e.g., she looked at him sweetly, are more emotionally evocative than their literal counterparts, i.e., she looked at him kindly; specifically, the former elicited enhanced activation of the left amygdala, associated with processing of emotionally salient stimuli. This finding suggests that, despite the meaning of both sentences being highly similar, the metaphorical formulation seem to engage the reader more strongly at the emotional level. In order to generalise this finding beyond the taste domain and to simulate more natural reading processes, we conducted a follow-up study using different types of metaphors, e.g., she had a rough day; this is a heavy matter, embedded in short stories. We found that all stories evoked emotional reactions to some extent, but metaphorical ones activated more peaks within the amygdala. Furthermore, by increasing metaphoricity as a continuous variable, we also found stronger amygdala activation. Finally, I will present novel imaging data on the comprehension of emotionally-laden idiomatic expressions, e.g., she spilled the beans; he’s in seventh heaven.

Francesca Citron graduated in Psychology from the University of Milan-Bicocca. She was then awarded a 1-year scholarship from the “Comune di Milano” which allowed her to conduct a research project at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. She investigated the learning of non-adjacent syntactic dependencies by means of ERPs. After that, Prof. Citron enrolled in a 3-year PhD programme (2007-2010) at the University of Sussex, UK, where she investigated the neural correlates of emotion word processing. Prof. Citron moved back to Germany in 2011 for her post-doc: she spent 4 years at the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion”, Free University of Berlin, working with Adele Goldberg on a collaborative project between the Cluster and Princeton University, NJ. During her stay in Berlin and her visits to Princeton, she developed her research on figurative language processing and its neural correlates. Since January 2014, Prof. Citron works as a lecturer at Lancaster University, UK, in the Department of Psychology (and aims to further her research on figurative language by looking at its comprehension in second language speakers. She is also exploring topics related to aesthetic perception)