Thursday, March 31, 2011

Metaphors Can Affect What Policies People Like

See last Saturday's "Week in Ideas" in ideas from the Wall Street Journal by David DiSalvo. They have short abstracts of recent research. Here it is
"Metaphors Matter

Most of us think little of throwing around metaphors in conversation, but a study shows how powerful they can be.

Researchers at Stanford sought to demonstrate how metaphors can change the way we think about a problem like crime. They asked 1,482 students to read one of two reports about a crime in a particular city and to suggest solutions. In the first report, crime was described as a "wild beast preying on the city." The second report was identical, except it described crime as a "virus infecting the city."

After reading the first report, 75% of participants suggested law enforcement and punishment as the solution, including building more prisons and bringing in the military when necessary. Only 25% suggested social or economic reforms. After reading the second report, 56% suggested enforcement and punishment, and 44% suggested social reforms. Researchers found that if the metaphor appeared early in the report, and thus framed the content, it swayed opinion. Placed at the end, it had no effect.

"Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning," Paul H. Thibodeau and Lera Boroditsky, PloS ONE (2011)"
Here is something Joseph Campbell said about myth and methaphor:
"...the word myth has come to mean lie -- because it is a lie to say that somebody has ascended to heaven. He hasn't. What is the connotation of that metaphorical image? That's a metaphor. And mythology is a compendium of metaphors. But when you understand a metaphor -- you know, just high school grammar language -- when you interpret the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation, you've lost the message. That's like going into a restaurant and reading the menu and deciding what you're going to eat, and you eat that part of the menu. The menu is a reference to something transcendent of that piece of paper."
See UNDERSTANDING MYTHOLOGY with JOSEPH CAMPBELL, an interview with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.

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