Psychology and the Poetics of Growth: Figurative Language in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Education

By Howard R. Pollio; Jack M. Barlow et al. | Go to book overview

3 The Measurement of Metaphor and Some Preliminary Findings

In order to own a phenomenon philosphically all we need do is think clearly and well; in order to own a phenomenon theoretically all we need do is provide a potentially workable model; and in order to own a phenomenon empirically all we need do is measure it. The usual procedure employed in literary analyses of figurative language (e.g., Brooke-Rose, 1958) involves a single scholar working alone over a text, and this seems a perfectly reasonable strategy for an analysis of texts. Fortunately or unfortunately, the niceties of psychological measurement often will not sit still for a single rater--no matter how well trained--and for this reason a different approach is required for psychological and psycholinguistic research.

In order to meet, even partially, the reliability requirements usually imposed by psychological measurement, Barlow, Kerlin, and Pollio ( 1971) developed a training manual designed to teach raters to identify figurative language in contexts ranging from therapy interviews to children's compositions by way of political speeches. Basically their manual is composed of a number of different parts, each part presenting a general definition of one or another class of figurative language such as presented in Chapter 2. In addition to specifically didactic exposition, each part also contains a programed instruction component designed to help a rater evaluate his newly acquired knowledge. Following each bit of programmed instruction is a practice--discussion section involving other raters. This section is designed to serve as a further practice session for identifying and categorizing figures of speech from conversational prose, and as a basis for a discussion session(s) designed to iron out discrepancies between raters.

In actual practice the training procedure consists of two steps: first, three different raters are trained to recognize 15 specific types of figurative language; and second, they are asked to rate independently 4 prose passages provided in the manual. Of these 4 passages, 2 are literary selections, 1 is a speech, and 1 is a transcript of a psychotherapy interview.

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