Metaphors, subconscious thought, and dreams


Today Metaphor Geeks hosted dr. Roberto Bichisecchi, for a meeting on the project regarding metaphors and subconscious thought.

Dr. Roberto Bichisecchi is psychologist, psychoterapist, and psychoanalyst, author of several books. Among them, “Sogno, pensiero e sentimento”  (1999) investigates the connections between dream, thought, and emotion, from a psychoanalytic view.

Dr. Roberto Bichisecchi is also the director of the Association for Psychoanalysis in Pisa, connected to the Italian Federation for Psychoanalysis (FIP). Within this association dr. Roberto Bichisecchi frequently organizes seminars and lectures, hosting eminent scholars. In April he invited prof. Remo Bodei (University of California at Los Angeles) to give a talk about the concept of time, entitled “Paradossi del tempo. Come smontare i pregiudizi”.

Today’s meeting with dr. Bichisecchi was centered on the preparation of a scientific and interdisciplinary contribution that aims at providing theoretical insights and empirical data onto the function of metaphors for expressing personal contents, and the function of metaphors in dreams. As a matter of fact, from the point of view of communication theory, dreams constitute a unique opportunity to investigate metaphors, because in these acts the previous experience and the emotional background of the dreamer and that of the addressee overlaps. Thus, inferring the communicative intent, and interpreting the meaning of the metaphors in dreams is a process that differs from the interpretation of other metaphors. Metaphors that emerge in dreams are directed towards oneself, and the communicative intention has to be negotiated between the dreamer and himself.

Another meeting with dr. Bichisecchi is scheduled for this coming thursday, and it will be hosted by the Association for Psychoanalysis in Pisa.


Dr. Bichisecchi and dr. Bolognesi after the meeting.

Posted July 29, 2013

Conference Presentation at CRAL 2013 (Spain)


A preliminary study on visual vs verbal metaphors analysis has been succesfully presented at the third International CRAL conference on Meaning Construction and Meaning Interpretation: applications and implications. The title of the presentation was: “The behavior of source and target domains in corpora of texts and images: where the mappings come from”.  The presentation took place on friday 19th, within a special session, dedicated to the 4 best post-doc proposals selected by the advisory committee.

In this study, a small sample of visual metaphors used in advertising (9 metaphors), and a small group of verbal metaphors and conceptual metaphors that have been inferred by looking just at linguistic expressions (11 metaphors) have been taken into account, analysed and modeled. The source and the target domains of each metaphor have been identified (18+22 concepts) and the resulting 40 concepts have been analysed automatically with distributional analyses conducted across texts and across annotated images. As a result, it was possible to compare each source/target pair of  concepts in the 2 environments, and quantify the relatedness between these concepts in each environment (language and annotated images).

Assuming that the shared contextual features between source and target domains of a metaphor define the relatedness between the two concepts, and that the metaphor is arguably realised on those shared features, the following hp was tested: the relatedness between source and target domains of a visual metaphor emerges mainly from the corpus of annotated images (which conveys those elements on which we construct meaning and we make sense of our experiences starting from perceptual stimuli), while the relatedness between source and target domains of a verbal metaphor emerges mainly from the corpus of language.

This does not imply that language and perceptual experiences are two independent modules, but rather that the 2 modalities of communication (visual and verbal) convey meaning in different ways, and given a stimulus expressed in the visual or in the verbal modality, we might activate in our minds different sets of conceptual knowledge, deriving from our encounters with the give concept that have been stored in memory via the verbal or via the perceptual modality.


Here a picture of the four finalists taken a the Bodegas Franco-Españolas, where we had the conference dinner. Great wine, great company!

(thank you Kasia for the picture!)


Posted July 24, 2013