The Case for Metaphor in Political Reasoning and Cognition



Metaphor is a central component of human cognition. Research on metaphor's role in politics has thus far focused predominately on metaphors used by the political elite. While these metaphors are important, they provide limited insight on metaphor's capacity as a reasoning tool for citizens. Metaphor as a cognitive mechanism enables citizens to make sense of the political world by drawing from previous knowledge and experience in nonpolitical domains. Because metaphors shape and constrain understanding by framing it within existing knowledge structures, they generate important predispositions. As a result, the study of metaphor offers an opportunity to enrich our descriptive understanding of the political cognition of citizens. The implicit nature of metaphorical reasoning means that empirical investigation will be a challenge for future research, but previous studies on metaphor suggest some productive avenues. Metaphor offers not only the chance to better explain how citizens view the political world and why they hold the preferences they do, but its criteria and processes hold wider relevance for political psychology and public opinion research.