Vicky Lai

Assistant Professor, Cognition & Neural Systems
Associate Professor, Cognitive Science Program
Faculty, Second Language Acquisition and Teaching Program
Courtesy Faculty, Department of Linguistics
Director, Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory
Lai Headshot

Psychology 456 (Office)
Psychology 113 (Lab)


Research Interests: 

  • Figurative language: How do people comprehend metaphors, irony, and idioms? What is the role of metaphor in embodied cognition? Can metaphors help abstract, science concept learning? What are the social-affective functions of metaphors and irony? 
  • Emotion and language: How is emotion encoded in language? How do language activities such as reading give rise to emotion? How do readers’ mood states influence meaning making in language? Do older adults understand and produce emotional language differently from younger adults?
  • Language and thought: Do the language(s) we speak influence how we perceive and reason about the world?

Updated: 09/19/22


Selected Publications: 

  • Lai, V. T., Hubbard, R., Ku, L, & Pfeifer, V. (To appear). Electrophysiology of non-literal language. In Language Electrified, Techniques, Methods, Applications, and Future Perspectives in the Neurophysiological Investigation of Language [Computations] edited by Grimaldi, M., Shtyrov, Y., Brattico, E. Springer.
  • Kamenetski, A., Lai, V. T., & Flecken, M. (2022). Minding the manner: Attention to motion events in Turkish–Dutch early bilinguals. Language and Cognition, 1-23.
  • Ku, L.-C., Allen, J. B. B., & Lai, V.T. (2022). Attention and regulation during emotional word comprehension in older adults: Evidence from event-related potentials and brain oscillations. Brain & Language, 227, 105086. 
  • Pfeifer, V. A., & Lai, V. T. (2021). The comprehension of irony in high and low emotional contexts. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale. 
  • Donahoo, S. & Lai, V. T. (2020). The mental representation and social aspect of expressives. Cognition and Emotion, 1-16.
  • Lai, V. T. & Desai, R. H. (2016). The Grounding of Temporal Metaphors. Cortex, 76, 43-45.
  • Coulson, S., & Lai, V. T. (2016). Editorial: The Metaphorical Brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 699.  
  • Lai, V. T., van Dam, W., Conant, L. L., Binder, J. R., & Desai, R. H. (2015). Familiarity Differentially Affects Right Hemisphere Contributions to Processing Metaphors and Literals. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 44.
  • Lai, V. T., Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2015). Feel between the Lines: Implied Emotion in Sentence Comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(8), 1528–1541.
  • Lai, V. T., Rodriguez, G. G., & Narasimhan, B. (2014). Thinking-for-speaking in Early and Late Bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 17(01), 139–152.
  • Lai, V. T. & Curran, T. (2013). ERP Evidence for Conceptual Mappings and Comparison Processes during the Comprehension of Conventional and Novel Metaphors. Brain and Language, 127, 484–496.
  • Lai, V. T., & Boroditsky, L. (2013). The Immediate and Chronic Influence of Spatio-temporal Metaphors on the Mental Representations of Time in English, Mandarin, and Mandarin-English speakers. Frontiers in Cultural Psychology, 4, 142.
  • Lai, V. T., Curran, T., & Menn, L. (2009). Comprehending Conventional and Novel Metaphors: An ERP study. Brain Research, 1284, 145-155.

Courses Taught:

  • PSY 300 – Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience - A Guide to Mind and Brain (2023)
  • PSYS 407 - Language and Thought (2023)
  • NSCS 320 – Issues/Themes in Cognitive Science (2022)
  • PSY 530 – Neural Basis of Language (2021)
  • PSY 496F - Cognitive Psychology: Seminar (2017)

*Year listed indicates when this individual last taught the specified course.

Updated: 05/10/24