Metaphor creates intimacy, builds understanding
People who read metaphors are more likely to understand what someone else is thinking.
Or so say Andrea Bowes and Albert Katz, two researchers at the University of Western Ontario (London).
The researchers performed several experiments in which participants read either metaphors or literal language. Those who read the metaphors were more likely to:
- Read people’s feelings just by looking at photos of their eyes
- Come up with more, richer ideas
- Perceive characters who used metaphor as closer and more emotionally intense
“There is a unique way in which the maker and appreciator of a metaphor are drawn closer to one another,” said philosopher Ted Cohen.
When you share a metaphor, Cohen said, you issue “a kind of concealed invitation,” which your reader “expends a special effort to accept,” resulting in a shared understanding and new common ground.
Want to build common ground? Make it a metaphor.
Source: Andrea Bowes and Albert Katz, “Metaphor creates intimacy and temporarily enhances theory of mind,” Memory & Cognition, March 2015