The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency and types of non-literal language usage in adults. In particular, the researcher determined whether non-literal language usage changes as a result of age and or education level. Age was chosen as a variable because it has been found that cognitive decline, as a result of old age, diminishes the abilities of older adults to interpret certain types of non-literal language. Education was chosen as a variable because no research has examined the effect of education level on non-literal language production. The researcher interviewed adults of varying ages and levels of educational attainment. Each participant told three stories based on images taken from the Thematic Apperception Test, then those stories were coded for non-literal language and subsequently analyzed. Priming and explicit instruction both had a significant effect on non-literal language usage. However, a significant interaction was present between amount of figurative language usage and age. Neither age nor education level had a significant effect on ambiguous language usage.


Furey, Joan


Communication Studies


Speech and Rhetorical Studies


non-literal language, aging

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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