Older adults filter irrelevant information during metaphor comprehension

Exp Aging Res. Jul-Sep 2002;28(3):253-67. doi: 10.1080/03610730290080317.


In general, older adults are less likely than younger adults to inhibit irrelevant information when reading literal text (Hasher & Zacks, 1988). Are older adults also less likely to inhibit irrelevant information during metaphor comprehension? Young (mean age 19.2 years) and older adults (mean age 73.6 years) participated in a timed property-verification task. Although the older adults were generally slower than the younger, they displayed the same pattern of data. After reading metaphors, both groups verified metaphor-relevant properties more quickly after a metaphor prime than after a literal control prime, whereas metaphor-irrelevant properties were responded to more slowly after metaphor primes, relative to the controls. These results suggest that older adults, like younger ones, enhance metaphor-relevant properties and filter out metaphor-irrelevant properties during metaphor comprehension. Older adults' metaphor comprehension processes thus seem intact. Mechanisms for filtering out metaphor-irrelevant information are considered.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Comprehension*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Reading
  • Task Performance and Analysis