1.1 Research Background
Metaphor is a topic, long and widely discussed in academia. Lakoff and Johnsonproposed the conceptual metaphor theory, which holds that metaphor is a systematic mappingfrom a specific conceptual domain to an abstract conceptual domain. This means thatmetaphor involves a mental processing which can be reflected not only in language but also inother modalities. Since then, research on metaphor have shifted from language to othermodalities. For example, Forceville put pictorial metaphor (PM) into the framework ofcognitive linguistics. Cohn studied comics as visual language under the frame of linguisticanalysis. And the text-image relation in political cartoons was also studied, such as that byBergen.
On the other hand, the global advertising expense has reached $ 600 billion, and it hasbecome a common phenomenon that print ads use rhetorical figures, of which metaphor is thebest known example. About advertising metaphor the central topic involves viewers’identifying the target and the meaning intended by the advertisers. This two-step cognition isclosely related to the reversibility of pictorial metaphor (or direction). If a metaphor isreversible, it means that there exists an accepted order of both “A is B”, and “B is A”. It canalso be expressed as the identification of the target and the identification of the transferredfeatures of pictorial metaphors[6-10]. For example, it seems easy to identify the target andtransferred features in Figure 1.1. This advertisement is about the product “beer” rather thanthe “tank”, and it can be expressed as “beer is as strong as the tank”. But it seems difficult toidentify the target object in Figure 1.2. Viewers may wonder whether the advertisement themeis about the “tie” or the “chocolate”. In comparison, the verbally- presented feature “strong”of the “tank” made the choice of the target and source justified in Fig 1.1.
1.2 Research Objectives and Significance
In the research of pictorial metaphors, a metaphor, academically defined, alwayscompares two different objects: one is the target object and the other is the source object.From the practical perspective, viewers depend on shared information to yield positive effectssuch as purchase desires. One of the premises to achieve this expected intention is improvingviewers’ comprehension and liking towards the advertisements to trigger viewers’ interest sothat they may exchange active interpretations after being exposed to the advertisements. Thisassumption has led scholars to study such issues as how viewers identify and confirm thetarget objects, what factors will influence the choice, the extent to which they appreciateadvertising and how they can compromise a balance between advertisement comprehensionand advertisement liking.
In order to clarify the comprehension processing mechanism, several factors whichinfluence the outcomes have been identified. Among the diverse influencing factors for theprocessing of advertising pictorial metaphors, individual comprehension, aptness, familiarity,involvement, visual structure of pictorial metaphor, verbal clues, and (a)symmetry are themost important.Based on all the above, this paper aims to study the reversibility in the processing ofpictorial metaphors by observing the influencing factors of aptness, (a)symmetry, and verbalfeatures, with other factors controlled. Three research questions will be answered:
(1) Does there exist the reversed processing of pictorial metaphors? (Experiment One,with a focus on aptness)
(2) In real advertisement context, given comprehension and advertisement liking, whatis the effect of (a)symmetry on reversibility? (Experiment Two, with a focus on (a)symmetry)
(3) What is the effect of verbal clues on reversibility in real advertisement context?(Experiment Three, with a focus on verbally- presented features)
2. Literature Review