GERNSBACHER, M. A., ROBERTSON, R. R. W. (1999). The role of supression in figurative language comprehension. Journal of Pragmatics, 31, 1619-1630.
In this paper, we describe the crucial role that suppression plays in many aspects of language comprehension. We define suppression as a general, cognitive mechanism the purpose of which is to attenuate the interference caused by the activation of extraneous, unnecessary, or inappropriate information. We illustrate the crucial role that suppression plays in general comprehension by reviewing numerous experiments. These experiments demonstrate that suppression attenuates interference during lexical access (how word meanings are accessed), anaphoric reference (how referents for anaphors, like pronouns, are computed), cataphoric reference (how concepts that are marked by devices, such as spoken stress, gain a privileged status), syntactic parsing (how grammatical forms of sentences are decoded), and individual differences in (adult) language comprehension skill. We also review research that suggests that suppression plays a crucial role in the understanding of figurative language, in particular, metaphors, idioms, and proverbs.