Publication details [#4855]

Gallup, Gordon G., Jr. and Patricia A. Cameron. 1992. Modality specific metaphors: Is our mental machinery "colored" by a visual bias? Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 7 (2) : 93–98. 6 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


Unlike the use of metaphors drawn from other sensory modalities (e.g., 'cold turkey', 'hard times', 'rough draft'), there appears to be a peculiar predisposition in English to use visual terms as metaphors to describe or capture mental events (e.g., 'a dim wit', 'as illustrated by', 'a flash of genius', 'picture the following', 'reflect on that', 'see what I mean', 'a brilliant scholar', 'shed some light', 'bright idea', 'a clear explanation'). We contend that this visual/mental metaphorical bias may be a by-product of our primate/arboreal heritage, which put a premium on vision, and we present preliminary evidence that a comparable tendency to describe mental states using visual metaphors may be present in other contemporary and ancient languages as well. (Gordon Gallup, Jr.)