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Discussion

Novel metaphors meet the requirements of optimal innovation (5): They involve a novel (metaphorical) response to a familiar (literal) stimulus, without blocking its salience-based (literal) interpretation, as can be also deduced from their longer reading times compared to their literal interpretations (Giora and Fein 1999a). Their literal interpretations, however, do not: They involve only their salience-based interpretation. Hence, the difference in pleasurability ratings found between novel and familiar interpretations of the same stimuli.

The familiar metaphors used in this study did not vary salience-wise from their literal interpretations (as can be deduced from their equal reading times shown in Giora and Fein 1999a) and could not be classified as optimally innovative. No wonder they did not vary on the pleasurability scale. Their high ratings (compared to similar ratings of novel metaphors), although, in fact, incomparable, may provide only partial support for the view that familiarity is a crucial factor in pleasurability. In this respect, our view differs from that of other models of pleasurability (Berlyne 1971; Bornstein and D’Agostino 1992; Giora et al. 2004; Harrison 1977; Kunst-Wilson and Zajonc 1980; Zajonc 1968, 1980, 2000). Although these models attribute to familiarity a role in pleasure, they predict low pleasure ratings for high (and low) familiar items. In contrast, the Optimal Innovation Hypothesis predicts moderate pleasure ratings for high familiar items (as shown by Giora et al. 2004).

Additional support for the view that it is not figurativeness that accounts for pleasurability but optimal innovativeness comes from findings in Giora et al. (2004). In Giora et al. (2004), we tested this assumption by using the 10 most familiar and the 10 most novel items of the set used here. We figured that since the most familiar metaphors will be more familiar than their literal interpretations, it is their literal interpretation that would meet the requirements for optimal innovativeness, involving both salient (metaphorical) and low- salience (literal) responses. In contrast, the most novel metaphors will be rated as more pleasing than their literal interpretations, since they involve both a familiar salience-based (literal) interpretation alongside a novel (metaphorical) interpretation, which their literal interpretations do not. Findings indeed show that while novel metaphors were rated as more pleasing than their literal interpretations (Figure 1), most familiar metaphors were rated as less pleasurable than their literal interpretations, which were found to be more pleasing. Increase in figurativeness, then, does not guarantee increase in liking (see Figure 2). Instead, it is optimal innovativeness that incurs pleasure regardless of figurativeness.

In all, these findings support the Optimal Innovation Hypothesis according to which optimally innovative rather than metaphorical interpretations of same stimuli account for pleasurability. Theories assuming that the salience-based (literal) interpretations of novel (metaphorical) stimuli need not be computed in the process of their interpretation and might be circumvented due to a strong context cannot account for these findings.

Pleasure ratings are a function of figurativeness

Figure 1: Pleasure ratings are a function of figurativeness

Pleasure ratings are not a function of figurativeness

Figure 2: Pleasure ratings are not a function of figurativeness

 
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