Thinking literally: The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world

Cartoon of man with knife in his back speaking to doctor
September 27, 2009

John Bargh and Josh Ackerman Interviewed by The Boston Globe

Drawing on philosophy and linguistics, cognitive scientists have begun to see the basic metaphors that we use all the time not just as turns of phrase, but as keys to the structure of thought. By taking these everyday metaphors as literally as possible, psychologists are upending traditional ideas of how we learn, reason, and make sense of the world around us. Click here to go to the article.

“The abstract way we think is really grounded in the concrete, bodily world much more than we thought,” says John Bargh, a psychology professor at Yale and leading researcher in this realm.

A few psychologists have begun to ponder applications. Ackerman, for example, is looking at the impact of perceptions of hardness on our sense of difficulty. The study is ongoing, but he says he is finding that something as simple as sitting on a hard chair makes people think of a task as harder. If those results hold up, he suggests, it might make sense for future treaty negotiators to take a closer look at everything from the desks to the upholstery of the places where they meet. Read more…