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Like a moth to a flame, we're drawn to metaphors to explain ourselves

Metaphors

Metaphors

Metaphors use familiar objects and phenomena to help think through and talk about abstract ideas.

Although metaphors can illustrate ideas and provide insight, they can also limit them. There comes a point when the limits they impose will outweigh the understanding they provide.

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Like a moth to a flame, we're drawn to metaphors to explain ourselves

Like a moth to a flame, we're drawn to metaphors to explain ourselves

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/like-a-moth-to-a-flame-we-are-drawn-to-metaphors-to-explain-our-world

theguardian.com

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Key Ideas

Metaphors

Metaphors use familiar objects and phenomena to help think through and talk about abstract ideas.

Although metaphors can illustrate ideas and provide insight, they can also limit them. There comes a point when the limits they impose will outweigh the understanding they provide.

Metaphors shape our actions

Some studies suggest that one in every 25 words we use is a metaphor. The choice of metaphor can form the way we see the world and act upon it.

In a series of experiments, participants were given two identical reports about crime, except that one report described the crime as "a wild beast preying on the city" and the other "a virus infecting the city." When asked for solutions, those who read the first report suggested stricter law enforcement, while those who read the second proposed social reforms.

The role of metaphors

Metaphors, like “trickle-down economics” and “red wall,” help frame the issues and also our responses to social and political discussions.

When politicians compare the national economy to a household budget, they want us to think in specific ways about national debt or policies of austerity.

Metaphors also play a role in science. Science accepts that metaphors can be limiting, but admit that they are an essential tool for thinking.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Analogy

An analogy is a comparison that asserts a parallel between two distinct things, based on the perception of a shared property.

Analogies appear in metaphors, similes, political...

An analogy is a tool

Analogies are arguments that operate unnoticed. Like icebergs, they conceal most of their mass and power beneath the surface.

Analogies are also used in innovation and decision making. For instance, the "bicycle for the mind” that Steve Jobs envisioned as a Macintosh computer.

The importance of a good analogy

Using analogies help us to communicate effectively. For example, Warren Buffett noted "You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out,” meaning when times are bad, hidden weaknesses are exposed.

Lack of awareness of an analogy's influence can come at a cost. The ability to construct a good analogy can help you reach your outcomes.

3 more ideas

Past and future

Past and future
  • When English speakers use hand gestures to talk about the past and the future, they thrust a hand over the shoulder for the past and put a hand forward to indicate the future. English speake...

How humans sense time

Humans are different from animals in that we don't sense time only as passing. We dice time into units or think of time to go beyond our lifespan, such as millennia. We rely on time concepts that allow us to make plans, follow recipes, and discuss possible futures.

Describing yesterday and tomorrow

Recent research suggests that across all cultures, the concept of time depends on metaphor, known as a conceptual metaphor. We build our understanding of duration and sequences of events out of familiar spatial ideas such as size, movement, and location.

But the "time is like space" metaphor takes on very different forms from one culture to the next.

5 more ideas

Think like a scientist

If we can distance ourselves from our feelings that support our biases and can learn to treat them simply like another data set, then we can look at our personal beliefs and com...

The scientific way is not the only tool

There are times when the pros and cons of multiple options are equal and data comparison won't help. Time can also be a hindrance to working more scientifically from an operational standpoint. Then good emotional intelligence is more dependable than pure rational thought and scientific process.