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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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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

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.

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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.

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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.

The human microbiome
The human microbiome

The human body is made up of trillions of human cells. There are possibly three times as many microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) living in and on the human body. The micro...

Using metaphors to describe microbiomes

Metaphors that scientists use to talk about the microbiome influence scientific understanding and can shape medical treatment. For example, viewing the microbiome as an "organ" or a "part of the immune system."

Some physicians support fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) - treating the malfunction of the gut microbiome by swallowing a pill full of someone else's poo. It follows the same basic principles as an organ transplant, and the treatment is probably a consequence of understanding the microbiome as an organ.

A limited perspective on the human microbiome

To think of a microbiome as an organ creates a limited perspective because organs are relatively set. Generally, a heart will develop and remain the same in each person. But a microbiome is not one thing. It's trillions of things and responds to small changes in our diet, environment, and behavior. It works together with the human body in a symbiotic relationship.

Each metaphor can only capture a part of what the microbiome is. We need all the metaphors to understand the complexity of the microbiome and its role in our bodies.

Data

It comprises the facts without necessarily showing clarity to a situation.

  • What do the numbers mean and why should you care? Go past the data to capture the i...
Logic

Carefully check that the logic of your case is clearly explained. Observation or even intuition can create an initial structure for explaining a complex problem such as an issue.

Pictures

Pictures, visuals and images offer your audience an invaluable way of remembering the relationships between different variables. The right visual offers an easy way to see, internalize and later recall even complicated information.

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Fantasy and economics
Fantasy and economics

Underlying our fears of robots stealing our jobs are more basic anxieties about money. We're using fantasy to confront fears

Sci-Fi has become a measure to assess what's happen...

Economic metaphors
  • The Hunger Games gave us a neo-Depression dystopia where media-obsessed elites torment the starving lower classes.
  • The Expanse is about class warfare.
  • The 1950 Foundation series was partly about saving the galaxy with sound economic programs.
  • The 2012 novel Three Parts Dead, was a mythical reimagining of the 2008 financial crisis. The author, Max Gladstone, said you couldn't tell a story like the financial crisis with realism. You need fantasy to explain it.
The dark side of science fiction

The “dark” kind of science fiction deals with the foundation of economics, which is scarcity. There is a fear that poverty will come faster as automation continues to devalue human labor.

People are experiencing scarcity or are afraid of it on a regular basis. Writers are turning to economists to make their financial worlds more plausible.

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A shift in measuring well-being
A shift in measuring well-being

People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

Measuring well-being: people vs money

The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.

Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.

Measuring progress and prosperity

What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.

Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.

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City Life and Mental Health

New studies show that our physical surroundings affect our mental health as well, in a greater degree than previously known. The people living in big cities face a nearly 40 percent higher...

Bad Air Around Us
Air pollution is causing various respiratory and cardiovascular problems among the population, killing millions every year.
Lack of breathable air is also an enabler of depression, anxiety and certain psychotic experiences.
Unknown Dangers

The one terrifying aspect of how the space we live affects our health is that many of the bad effects aren't even fully known to us, like mood swings, neuron damage, chemical imbalance and many brain-altering effects, that are yet to be fully studied.

Our brain on stories

A story can put your whole brain to work.

When we are being told a story, not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we wou...

We are wired for storytelling

A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long.

Giving suggestions

Exchange giving suggestions for telling stories.

A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.

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