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A neuroimaging investigation into figurative language and aesthetic perception

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This study builds on previous work by Citron and Goldberg (2014) in which silent reading of taste metaphors, e.g., She looked at him sweetly, was shown to elicit stronger emotional neural responses than their literal counterparts. Since metaphors are often used as a stylistic device in poetry and narrative to elicit aesthetic experiences, we aimed to investigate whether the emotional engagement in response to these expressions is driven by their implicit evaluation as more aesthetically pleasing stimuli. We found that, even though taste metaphors were rated as more beautiful than their literal renderings, beauty ratings did not elicit stronger emotional responses in the brain. Rather, increasing beauty activated the primary somatosensory cortex, associated with bodily sensations in response to touch.