Comparing Metaphors Reveals their Persuasive Capacity


Metaphors pervade discussions of sociopolitical issues and influence the way we think. One challenge facing researchers, however, is that it can be difficult to make principled predictions about exactly how metaphors will influence thought. Here, we use an explicit comparison task to quantify the persuasive capacity of metaphors. In Experiment 1, people were given two metaphors and two policy responses. They were asked to match one policy to each metaphor. In Experiment 2, people read metaphorically framed issues and chose between policy responses. We found that data from the explicit comparison task predicted behavior from another group of participants on the metaphor framing task; a measure of linguistic association from LSA did not predict behavior on the framing task. These results suggest a relationship between explicit analogical comparison and more implicit natural language metaphor processing. It also provides a method for measuring the conceptual entailments of metaphors.

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