On the Cognitive Style of Field (In)dependence as a Predicator of L2 Learners' Performance in Recognition and Text-based Tests of Metaphor

Mahmood Hashemian, Ali Roohani, Batool Fadaei
2012 Journal of Language Teaching and Research  
Not only being a linguistic device to add color to texts, metaphor is an important feature of our thinking and education (Jensen, 2006) . In the same line, Kövecses (2002) believes in the important role of metaphor in human thought, understanding, and making our social, cultural, and psychological reality. Yet on a closer look, L2 pedagogy has piqued L2 educators' interest in understanding of L2 learner differences. One is the attempt to match the kind of instructional activities to L2
more » ... ties to L2 learners' preferred styles. This study is an attempt to investigate the role of cognitive style of field (in) dependence (FI/FD) on L2 learners' performance in recognition, text-based true-false, and text-based scriptally implicit tests of metaphor. For the purpose of this study, 80 senior undergraduate university students majoring in English Translation were selected from among 110 students through a 50-item Nelson English Language Proficiency Test adopted from Fowler and Norman Coe (1978) with reasonable measures of validity and reliability. Then, the cognitive style of FI/FD and metaphorical performance were assessed, respectively. As for the former, GEFT developed by Witkin, Raskin, Oltman, and Karp (1971) was run. Regarding the latter, refined through conducting factor analysis, the tests of metaphor were run. After running a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), the data revealed a significant difference between the cognitive style of FI/FD on all kinds of metaphor tests. The study could have some implications for L2 research and pedagogy that will be discussed throughout the paper. Index Terms-conceptual metaphor, cognitive style of filed (in) dependence, recognition, text-based true-false, and scriptally implicit tests of metaphor, conceptual mapping, conceptual blending Kövecses (2002) defines metaphor as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain called conceptual metaphor (p. 4). Thus, it is possible to talk about life in terms of journeys, arguments in terms of war, love also in terms of journeys, theories in terms of buildings, ideas in terms of food, and social organizations in terms of plants. Technically speaking, every conceptual metaphor "consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another" (Kövecses, 2002, p. 4). The source domain is a more concrete or physical concept that helps us draw metaphorical expressions and understand another conceptual concept. The target domain is a more abstract concept that is understood. Thus, argument, love, idea, and social organizations are all target domains, and war, journey, food, and plant are source domains, respectively. Recognizing the source of metaphor in literature and art is an idea among lay people. Lay people think that creating metaphor is the work of poets and artists. These ideas are believed in classical view of metaphor, but they are only partially true from the cognitive linguistics point of view. Nevertheless, by introducing the contemporary view of metaphor developed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) in their book Metaphors We Live By, the ideas changed dramatically. In fact, metaphors are a matter of thought in the contemporary view. Contrary to the classical view, metaphors are not just poetic expressions but apply to much of the ordinary everyday language. At any rate, it is a truism that L2 teaching has changed as a result of curricula and teaching methods to meet the changing needs of L2 learners. Therefore, investigating the factors influencing L2 test scores has long been focused in different scientific inquiries (e.g., Alderson, 1991; Anivan, 1991; Salmani-Nodoushan, 2006 , 2009 . Upon these attempts, different factors have been identified. Individual L2 learner differences are one such category influencing the performance of L2 test-takers. An awareness of individual differences in L2 learning will make L2 educators and program designers, in all probability, more sensitive to the roles of these differences in L2 teaching (Kang, 1999) . One of the highly fruitful and important dimensions of the individual L2 learner differences is L2 test-takers' cognitive styles. In the case of the cognitive style, one such area that has received attention from L2 researchers (Altun & Cakan, 2006; Daniels, 1996; Ford & Chen, 2001 ) is the cognitive style of filed (in)dependence (FI/FD) having possibly the widest application to the educational concerns. According to Brown (2000) , FD learners pay attention to the whole of a learning task containing many items and rely on the surrounding field. On the contrary, FI individuals pay attention to particular items and perceive objects as separate from the field. In a nutshell, as it is evident from Ford and Chen's (2001) assertion, FD L2 learners concentrate first on making an overall picture of the subject area, and then, consider the details. It is worth mentioning that reviewing the miscellaneous research studies (e.g.in the field of metaphor revealed the pervasive use of metaphor in different domains. Metaphor comprehension has also been a matter of enquiry in neuropsychology since the late 1970s. In this regard, Blasko (1999 , cited in Chiappe & Chiappe, 2007 found a link between working memory capacity and metaphor comprehension. By studying 163 male and female individuals, Blasko found that high working memory individuals produced deeper interpretations of metaphors. This study jumped on the bandwagon of Chiappe and Chiappe (2007) who believed in effectiveness of working memory capacity as an important factor in metaphor processing based on the fact that high working memory capacity individuals could make better interpretations of metaphors. In their study of L2 learners' explanations of conceptual metaphor and cognitive style variables, Boers and Littlemore (2000) , through using the Riding's (1991) computer-assisted test of the cognitive styles, asked a group of 71 students of business and economics in the University of Brussels to explain three conceptual metaphors. Then, Boers and Littlemore classified the participants' cognitive styles into analytic or holistic and imager or verbalizer. The results revealed that the holistic thinkers tended to blend their conception of the target domain with the source domain and the imagers were more likely to refer to images to explain the metaphors. Concerning the correlation between L2 learners' cognitive style and choice of metaphor, Palmquist (2001) hypothesized that understanding and choice of metaphors would be dependent on L2 learners' cognitive style. In order to test this hypothesis, Palmquist investigated which metaphors were preferred by L2 learners, and then, measured their cognitive styles. Palmquist gave a list of metaphors to L2 learners, asked them to choose their favorite metaphor, and then, to explain the reason for choosing that metaphor. Then, by using GEFT, the L2 learners' cognitive styles were determined. Although no correlation was found between the cognitive styles and L2 learners' choice of metaphors, the FD learners tended to use social topics and such broad terms as vast and uncharted to explain the reason for their choices. Conversely, the FI learners were action-oriented and tended to use verbs to do this task. True as it may seem, due to lack of any clear methodology, one can claim that L2 research domain has had its main focus of attention on the comprehension processes of metaphorical language rather than the production side (Harris, Friel, & Mickelson, 2006) . With all this amount of emphasis laid on such vital and fruitful area as the comprehension side of metaphorical language, most advanced L2 learners likely experience moments of difficulty in reading a passage containing metaphors. In a nutshell, the area of L1 and L2 research abounds with miscellaneous studies on the figurative use of language and the cognitive style of FI/FD, respectively. However, regarding the relationship between this ilk of cognitive style JOURNAL OF LANGUAGE TEACHING AND RESEARCH 877
doi:10.4304/jltr.3.5.876-887 fatcat:5vbexvfh7zcjpgcjb4piax63yq