Is income inequality more of a blemish or a failing organ in our economy? Both metaphors capture something about wealth disparities, but only failing organ seems to emphasize the fact that our economy is a complex system, where activity in one region may lead to a cascade of problems in other parts of the system. In the present study, we introduce a novel method for classifying such ‘systemic’ metaphors, which reveals that people can reliably identify the extent to which a metaphor highlights the complex causal structure of a target domain. In a second experiment, we asked whether exposing people to more systemic metaphors would induce a systems-thinking mindset and influence reasoning on a seemingly unrelated task that measured the degree to which people reasoned about a domain in terms of complex causal relations. We found that participants who were primed with systemic metaphors scored higher on subsequent tasks that measured relational and holistic thinking, supporting the view that these metaphors can promote systems thinking. Our discussion highlights the potential role of systemic metaphors in facilitating reasoning and decision-making in complex domains.
Thibodeau, Paul H., Cynthia McPherson Frantz & Matias Berretta
2017. The earth is our home: systemic metaphors to redefine our relationship with nature. Climatic Change 142:1-2 ► pp. 287 ff.
Thibodeau, Paul H., Rose K. Hendricks & Lera Boroditsky
2017. How Linguistic Metaphor Scaffolds Reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 21:11 ► pp. 852 ff.
van den Boom, Lieke A.T.P., Karlijn L. van den Broek, Floor M. Kroese, Ellen H.M. Moors & Denise T.D. de Ridder
2023. Mental models of the protein shift: Exploring consumers’ perceptions of the transition. Appetite 187 ► pp. 106595 ff.
Walsh-Childers, Kim & Jennifer Braddock
2022. Costs, Evidence, Context and Values: Journalists’ and Policy Experts’ Recommendations for U.S. Health Policy Coverage. Health Communication 37:14 ► pp. 1778 ff.
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