This Is Like That: Metaphors in Public Discourse Shape Attitudes



A metaphoric framing is a message comparing an abstract concept (e.g., the economy) to a dissimilar concept that is more concrete and easier to comprehend (e.g., a vehicle). Metaphoric framings are commonly used in public discourse (e.g., magazine editorials, political campaign advertisements) to communicate about controversial sociopolitical issues. These messages are not mere figures of speech. Mounting evidence shows that even brief exposure to a metaphoric framing can prompt observers to transfer their knowledge of the metaphor's concrete concept to interpret analogous features of the target issue, even though the two concepts are superficially quite different. This article reviews this evidence, demonstrating that the metaphors pervading everyday communication uniquely shape how people think and feel about a host of important issues. The authors draw on theories of motivated social cognition to chart avenues for future research on the situational factors that moderate metaphor's impact on attitudes.