Albert Katz

Dr. Albert Katz

Professor Emeritus - Cognitive, Developmental and Brain Sciences


  • Bio

  • Publications

  • Research

Biographical Information

I was born and raised in Montreal, going to West Hill High School which, as I found out some years later, was the high school also for the famous psychologist Kenneth Spence. Knowing that fact during the early 60s when I was in high school would not have had any effect on my life. As it was I bumbled through elementary and high school and somehow (much to everyone’s surprise) received high enough marks on the province-wide finals that I somehow got into McGill University.

My life at McGill was somewhat uneven. I learned to play bridge, wrote and even published some poetry, and did the type of things that were expected in the don’t-trust- anyone- over- 40- summer- of- love time. However, among the things I failed to do was to go to classes from about November on. For this minor infraction I was asked to leave McGill but, in a letter written to satisfy parents and then-girlfriend, I convinced the powers to-be that my absence would be a major loss to the Academy.

Upon being given a second chance, I decided at that time to clean up my life, studied hard, cut off my beard, changed my area of study and lo, in 1969 received a BSc in Anthropology. By this time, I realized that I didn’t want to be an Anthropologist and thought Psychology would be just the thing for me. Hey I was still relatively young. The University of Western Ontario accepted me into a qualifying year in graduate school, so that I could overcome deficiencies in my knowledge of psychology. Al Paivio, just at that time finishing up his major book on Imagery and Verbal Processes taught us qualifying students a research course and Peter Denny took me on as advisor for the equivalent of an honours degree research project (which a few years later Peter and I published in what is now known as the Journal of Memory and Language). Al Paivio accepted me as a graduate student, one of the most fortunate experiences in my life. There are few people that I respect more than Al Paivio, as a scholar and as a person. Under Al’s supervision I received my MA in 1971 and my PhD in 1976. By this time I was married to a woman from London Ontario, and when I went on the job market the parents of my then-wife were divorcing and she wanted to stay as a support for her mother. Consequently I turned down a job offer from another University and took a two year limited term position at Western. This was yet another fortuitous event because that two-year term has worked itself into a 30 year plus stay at Western, in which, over the years, I have risen through the ranks and have been a Full professor since 1991.   I was Department Chair from 2007-2014.

Selected Publications


Katz, A., Cacciari, C., Gibbs, R and Turner, M. (1998). Figurative language and thought. New York: Oxford University Press.

Colston, H and Katz, A. (Eds, 2005) Figurative language comprehension: Social and cultural influences. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum and Associates.

Selected Chapters

Katz, A. (2005) Discourse and social-cultural factors in understanding nonliteral language. In Colston, H and Katz, A. (Eds) Figurative language comprehension: Social and cultural influences. (Pp. 183-207) Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum and Associates

Pexman, P, Ferretti, T and Katz, A (2007). Discourse factors that influence online reading of metaphor and irony. In Gibbs, R and Colston, H. (Eds) Irony in Language and Thought: A cognitive Science Reader (pp.231-252) New York: Erlbaum and Associates.

Katz, A. N., & Bowes, A. ( 2015). Embodiment in metaphor and (not?) in bilingual language.  R. Heredia & A. Cieslicka (Eds). Bilingual Figurative Language Processing ( pp.3-27). Cambridge University Press.

Selected Psycholinguistic Research Papers:

Toplak, M. and Katz, A. (2000). On the uses of sarcastic irony. Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 1467-1488.

Katz, A. and Ferretti, T. (2003) Reading proverbs in context: The role of explicit markers. Discourse Processes, 36, 19-46.

Katz, A, Blasko, D and Kamzerski, V (2004). Saying what you don't mean: Social influences on language processing. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 186-189

Hussey, K. and Katz, A. (2006). Metaphor production in online conversation: Gender and friendship status. Discourse Processes, 42, 75-98.

Katz, A and taylor, T. (2008). The journeys of life: Examining a conceptual metaphor with semantic and episodic memory recall. Metaphor and Symbol, 23, 148-173.

Hussey, K.,  Katz, A.N., & Leith, S. (2014).  Gendered Language in Interactive Discourse.   Journal of Psycholinguistic Research DOI 10.1007/s10936-014-9295-5

Bowes, A., & Katz, A. (2015):  Metaphor creates intimacy and enhances one's ability to infer the internal states of others. Memory and Cognition

Selected Memory Research:

Tomes, J. and Katz, A. (2000). Confidence-accuracy relations for real and suggested events. Memory, 8, 273-283.

Cann, D., & Katz, A. N. (2005).  Habitual acceptance of misinformation and an examination of individual differences and source attributions.  Memory and Cognition, 33, 405-417.

Cann, D., McRae, K. & Katz, A. N. (2011). False recall in the Deese-Roediger-Mcdermott paradigm: The role of gist and associative strength. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 1515-1542.


My initial scholarly work was on the role of mental imagery in concept formation (You can see the influence of both Al Paivio and Peter Denny here) and I have had a few side interests as well, namely studying individual differences in various cognitive processes. However, the “meat” of my research life has been the study of two (to me, not unrelated topics): (1) the processing of nonliteral language such as metaphor and irony and (2) memory processes, especially everyday memory such as the recall of events in one’s life. In recent years, the main thrust of my research has been to examine the role of social and cultural factors in the processing of nonliteral language, both online and offline. A book on this topic which I co-edited with Herb Colston was published by Erlbaum in 2005.

The lab is set up with a small room for group testing, and some computers in which we run on-line reading studies and on which we have done communication studies. My research has been supported by NSERC continuously since 1976, and has, from time to time, also been supported by SSHRC. In addition to the work done directly in my lab, I have actively collaborate with Todd Ferretti (Wilfred Laurier University) and with Dawn Blasko and Vicki Kazmerski (Penn State-Erie) on various projects. These collaborative projects employ both on-line reading procedures and ERP methodology. In addition, I collaborate with students from labs other than my own on topics of mutual interest (eg., Steve Lupker’s student Tamsen Taylor and Chris O’Connor, a student working with Ken McRae).

Currently there are three graduate students, one working towards his MAs and two toward PhDs, in my laboratory. In any year, one or two honour students are working in the lab., as well as students who have finished their BA, and are considering graduate studies. For 2014-2015 the lab members are:

James Boylan (PhD):

James has worked on various projects involving the processing of language stretched from its usual meaning, including published work on irony. His PhD project is on understanding semantic effects in the humour associated with reading puns. He has established a database of puns and has already shown that the semantic distance between the alternate meanings associated with puns is related to  a set of factors associated with the degree a given pun is seen as being effective . His ongoing work is making use of the database to experimentally test aspects of various theories of humour.

Hamad Al-Azary (PhD):

Hamad joined the lab in the fall of 2014, completing his MA in the lab of Lori Buchanan at University of Windsor. Even though a relative new addition, already he has been busy examining semantic effects in the processing of metaphor. In addition to examining the effects of semantic density on the processing of novel metaphor, Hamad is interested in examining the role played by semantic effects in the asymmetry seem when topic and vehicle of a metaphor are reversed (eg., “Education is a ladder” vs. A ladder is education”).

Nick Reid (MA):

Nick also just joined the lab group in the fall of 2014, coming to us with a BA from the University of New Brunswick-St. John. His initial work has been to look at implications that have arisen from earlier work in the lab (with Andrea Bowes) that indicated the processing of metaphor induces a sense of intimacy. He is examining whether this sense is embodied and will be manifested on perceptual tasks involving estimations of the physical distance between physical (eg dots) or social (pictures of people): do people estimate them as being closer when preceeded by the reading of metaphor rather than literal counterparts?

Krysten Zator (post BA)

Krysten did her HBA under my supervision. She has continued taking courses and has been involved with testing on aspects that arose from her HBA project. Here we are looking at the effect of popular music on autobiographical memory contrasting pop tunes from 3 time periods (when student was 5, 10 or 16) with generalized verbal cue (eg. Provide a memory from when you were 5 years of age) and a event specific cue (e.g., the X box was introduced into the market). We hope that Krysten will be joining us to do her MA starting the fall of 2015.

Miranda Qi (HBA student)

Miranda is following up work done in my lab , first by former PhD student Jennifer Tomes, and later by former PhD student David Cann. She is looking to see if we can induce a misinformation effect using word lists (rather than film, or narrative text). We are looking further whether we can identify with this novel procedure people who accept misinformation over a series of trials (so called habitual acceptors of misinformation). Finally we are looking at whether a cultural measure of thinking (Individualism- Collectivism) moderates any of the findings.

Dr. Karen Hussey:

Karen is a former PHd student of mine who is working as lab manager and helping the graduate and undergraduate students with their projects. Karen and I are working on various projects dealing with embodiment on sarcasm, and, with metaphor studies, extending work completed with Andrea Bowes to see the extent reading metaphor has face recognition.