Evaluating the Utility of Metaphors for Explaining Citizens’ Political Cognitions

Journal of Social and Political


ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)

ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)

Published: 25 December 2018

Evaluating the Utility of Metaphors for Explaining Citizens’ Political Cognitions

Steven J. Campbell

University of South Carolina, USA

pdf download

Download Full-Text Pdf



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 also hold wider relevance for political psychology research.


  1. Arceneaux, K. (2009). Cognitive biases and the strength of political arguments. Unpublished manuscript, Temple University. Retrieved from http://astro.temple.edu/~arceneau/argument_strength.pdf.

  2. Barsalou, L. W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617–645.

  3. Borah, P. (2011). Conceptual issues in framing theory: A systematic examination of a decade's literature. Journal of Communication, 61(2), 246–263.

  4. Cameron, L. (2010a). What is metaphor and why does it matter? In L. Cameron & R. Maslen (Eds.), Metaphor analysis: Research practice in applied linguistics, social sciences, and the humanities (pp. 3–25). London: Equinox.

  5. Cameron, L. (2010b). The discourse dynamics framework for metaphor. In L. Cameron & R. Maslen (Eds.), Metaphor analysis: Research practice in applied linguistics, social sciences, and the humanities (pp. 77–94). London: Equinox.

  6. Cameron, L., & Maslen, R. (2010). Using metaphor analysis to compare expert and public perceptions of the risk of terrorism. In L. Cameron & R. Maslen (Eds.), Metaphor analysis: Research practice in applied linguistics, social sciences, and the humanities (pp. 248–256). London: Equinox.

  7. Carver, T., & Pikalo, J. (Eds.) (2008). Political language and metaphor: Interpreting and changing the world. New York: Routledge.

  8. Casasanto, D. (2008). Conceptual affiliates of metaphorical gestures. Paper presented at the International Conference on Language, Communication, & Cognition. Brighton, UK.

  9. Casasanto, D. (2009). When is a linguistic metaphor a conceptual metaphor? In V. Evans & S. Pourcel (Eds.), New directions in cognitive linguistics (pp. 127–145). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  10. Charteris‐Black, J. (2005). Politicians and rhetoric: The persuasive power of metaphor. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

  11. Chilton, P. (2004). Analysing political discourse: Theory and practice. London: Routledge.

  12. Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2007a). Framing theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 10, 103–126.

  13. Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2007b). A theory of framing and opinion formation in competitive elite environments. Journal of Communication, 57(1), 99–118.

  14. Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2011). Public‐elite interactions: Puzzles in search of researchers. In R. Y. Shapiro & L. R. Jacobs (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of American public opinion and media (pp. 170‐188). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  15. Cienki, A., & Müller, C. (2008). Metaphor, gesture, and thought. In R. W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought (pp. 483–501). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  16. Colhoun, J., & Gentner, D. (2009). Inference processes in causal analogies. In B. Kokinov, K. Holyoak, & D. Gentner (Eds.), New frontiers in analogy research: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Analogy (pp. 82–96). Sofia: NBU Press.

  17. De Landtsheer, C. (2009). Collecting political meaning from the count of metaphor. In A. Musolff & J. Zinken (Eds.), Metaphor and discourse (pp. 59–78). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

  18. Dodge, K. A. (2008). Framing public policy and prevention of chronic violence in American youths. American Psychologist, 63(7), 573–590.

  19. Dolowitz, D. P., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from abroad: The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy‐making. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 13(1), 5–24.

  20. Druckman, J. N. (2001). On the limits of framing effects: Who can frame? Journal of Politics, 63(4), 1041–1066.

  21. Druckman, J. N., Kuklinski, J. H., & Sigelman, L. (2009). The unmet potential of interdisciplinary research: Political psychological approaches to voting and public opinion. Political Behavior, 31(4), 485–510.

  22. Druckman, J. N., & McDermott, R. (2008). Emotion and framing of risky choice. Political Behavior, 30(3), 297–321.

  23. Dunbar, K. (2001). The analogical paradox: Why analogy is so easy in naturalistic settings, yet so difficult in the psychological laboratory. In D. Gentner, K. Holyoak, & B. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (pp. 313–334). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  24. Dyson, S. B., & Preston, T. (2006). Individual characteristics of political leaders and the use of analogy in foreign policy decision making. Political Psychology, 27(2), 265–288.

  25. Geary, J. (2011). I is an other: The secret life of metaphor and how it shapes the way we see the world. New York: HarperCollins.

  26. Gentner, D. (1983). Structure‐mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy. Cognitive Science, 7(2), 155–170.

  27. Gentner, D. (2003). Why we're so smart. In D. Gentner & S. Goldin‐Meadow (Eds.), Language in mind: Advances in the study of language and thought (pp. 195–235). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  28. Gentner, D., Bowdle, B. F., Wolff, P., & Boronat, C. (2001). Metaphor is like analogy. In D. Gentner, K. Holyoak, & B. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (pp. 199–253). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  29. Gentner, D., & Colhoun, J. (2010). Analogical processes in human thinking and learning. In A. von Müller & E. Pöppel (Series Eds.) & B. Glatzeder, V. Goel, & A. von Müller (Vol. Eds.), On thinking: Vol. 2. Towards a theory of thinking: Building blocks for a conceptual framework (pp. 35–48). Heidelberg: Springer.

  30. Gibbs, R. W. (2006). Embodiment and cognitive science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  31. Gibbs, R. W., & Cameron, L. (2008). The social‐cognitive dynamics of metaphor performance. Cognitive Systems Research, 9(1–2), 64–75.

  32. Gibbs, R. W., Costa Lima, P. L., & Francozo, E. (2004). Metaphor is grounded in embodied experience. Journal of Pragmatics, 36(7), 1189–1210.

  33. Gross, K. (2008). Framing persuasive appeals: Episode and thematic framing, emotional response, and policy opinion. Political Psychology, 29(2), 169–192.

  34. Gross, K., & D'Ambrosio, L. (2004). Framing emotional response. Political Psychology, 25(1), 1–29.

  35. Hofstadter, D. R. (2001). Epilogue: Analogy as the core of cognition. In D. Gentner, K. Holyoak, & B. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (pp. 499–538). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  36. Holyoak, K. J., & Thagard, P. (1995). Mental leaps: Analogy in creative thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  37. Houghton, D. P. (1998). Historical analogies and the cognitive dimension of domestic policymaking. Political Psychology, 19(2), 279–303.

  38. Indurkhya, B. (2007). Rationality and reasoning with metaphors. New Ideas in Psychology, 25(1), 16–36.

  39. Johnson, M. (2010). Metaphor and cognition. In S. Gallagher & D. Schmicking (Eds.), Handbook of phenomenology and cognitive science (pp. 401–414). London: Springer.

  40. Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire, and dangerous things: What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  41. Lakoff, G. (2004). Don't think of an elephant: Know your values and frame the debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

  42. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  43. Lakoff, G., & Turner, M. (1989). More than cool reason: A field guide to poetic metaphor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  44. Landau, M. J., Meier, B. P., & Keefer, L. A. (2010). A metaphor‐enriched social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 136(6), 1045–1067.

  45. Landau, M. J., Sullivan, D., & Greenberg, J. (2009). Evidence that self‐relevant motives and metaphoric framing interact to influence political and social attitudes. Psychological Science, 20(11), 1421–1427.

  46. Lau, R. R., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2001). Advantages and disadvantages of cognitive heuristics in political decision making. American Journal of Political Science, 45(4), 951–971.

  47. Lau, R. R., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2006). How voters decide: Information processing during election campaigns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  48. Lupia, A., McCubbins, M. D., & Popkin, S. L. (2000). Beyond rationality: Reason and the study of politics. In A. Lupia, M. D. McCubbins, & S. L. Popkin (Eds.), Elements of reason: Cognition, choice, and the bounds of rationality (pp. 1–20). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  49. Marcus, A. A., & Sheaffer, Z. (2009). Analogical reasoning and complexity. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 6, Article 82.

  50. Markman, A. B., & Moreau, C. P. (2001). Analogy and analogical comparison in choice. In D. Gentner, K. Holyoak, & B. Kokinov (Eds.), The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (pp. 362–399). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  51. Mintz, A., & DeRouen, Jr., K. (2010). Understanding foreign policy decision‐making. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  52. Musolff, A. (2004). Metaphor and political discourse: Analogical reasoning in debates about Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

  53. Neustadt, R., & May, E. (1986). Thinking in time: The use of history for decision makers. New York: Free Press.

  54. Newell, B. R., & Bröder, A. (2008). Cognitive processes, models and metaphors in decision research. Judgment and Decision Making, 3(3), 195–204.

  55. Okulska, U., & Cap, P. (Eds.) (2010). Perspectives in politics and discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins  Publishing Company.

  56. Ottati, V. C., & Renstrom, R. A. (2010). Metaphor and persuasive communication: A multifunctional approach. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(9), 783–794.

  57. Popkin, S. L. (1991). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  58. Popkin, S. L., & Dimock, M. A. (2000). Knowledge, trust, and international reasoning. In A. Lupia, M. D. McCubbins, & S. L. Popkin (Eds.), Elements of reason: Cognition, choice, and the bounds of rationality (pp. 214–238). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  59. Rigney, D. (2001). The metaphorical society: An invitation to social theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

  60. Shimko, K. L. (1994). Metaphors and foreign policy decision making. Political Psychology, 15(4), 655–671.

  61. Slothuus, R., & de Vreese, C. H. (2010). Political parties, motivated reasoning, and issue framing effects. Journal of Politics, 72(3), 630–645.

  62. Sniderman, P. M. (2000). Taking sides: A fixed choice theory of political reasoning. In A. Lupia, M. D. McCubbins, & S. L. Popkin (Eds.), Elements of reason: Cognition, choice, and the bounds of rationality (pp. 67–84). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  63. Sniderman, P. M., Brody, R. A., & Tetlock, P. E. (1991). Reasoning and choice: Explorations in political psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  64. Steen, G. J. (2008). The paradox of metaphor: Why we need a three‐dimensional model of metaphor. Metaphor and Symbol, 23(4), 213–241.

  65. Steen, G. J. (2011). The language of knowledge management: A linguistic approach to metaphor analysis. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 28(2), 181–188.

  66. Sternberg, R. J. (1977). Intelligence, information processing, and analogical reasoning: The componential analysis of human abilities. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  67. Tetlock, P. E. (2002). Social functionalistic frameworks for judgment and choice: Intuitive politicians, theologians, and prosecutors. Psychological Review, 109(3), 451–471.

  68. Thagard, P. (2000). Coherence in thought and action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  69. Thagard, P. (2011). The brain is wider than the sky: Analogy, emotion, and allegory. Metaphor and Symbol, 26(2), 131–142.

  70. Thibodeau, P. H., & Boroditsky, L. (2011). Metaphors we think with: The role of metaphor in reasoning. PLoS ONE, 6(2), e16782.

  71. Wharton, C. M., Holyoak, K. J., Downing, P. E., Lange, T. E., Wickens, T. D., & Melz, E. R. (1994). Below the surface: Analogical similarity and retrieval competition in reminding. Cognitive Psychology, 26(1), 64–101.

  72. Williams, L. E., Huang, J. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (2009). The scaffolded mind: Higher mental processes are grounded in early experience of the physical world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(7), 1257–1267.

  73. Zinken, J. (2007). Discourse metaphors: The link between figurative language and habitual analogies. Cognitive Linguistics, 18(3), 445–466.

  74. Zuckerman, A. S., Dasović, J., & Fitzgerald, J. (2007). Partisan families: The social logic of bounded partisanship in Germany and Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About Us

The Asian Institute of Research is an online and open-access platform to publish recent research and articles of scholars worldwide. Founded in 2018 and based in Indonesia, the Institute serves as a platform for academics, educators, scholars, and students from Asia and around the world, to connect with one another. The Institute disseminates research that is proven or predicted to be of significant influence for the general public.

Contact Us

Please send all inquiries to the email:


Business Address:

5th Floor, Kavling 507, Fajar Graha Pena Tower, Jl. Urip Sumohardjo No.20, Makassar, Indonesia 90234

Copyright © 2018 The Asian Institute of Research. All rights reserved

Stay Connected

  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • LinkedIn - Black Circle