Metaphors and Decisionmaking

Posted on January 14, 2010 by


Cogito, ergo sum doesn’t just mean “I think therefore I am.” It means, “I shake things up, therefore I am.”

The TED video below is of James Geary speaking about metaphors.

I got off of My Mind on Books.

I was drooling over this quote:

“We can never ignore the metaphorical meanings of words.”

This is a big statement, which basically means that we are imperfect thinkers. As imperfect thinkers, who make reason and explanation through words, we become cognizant of all the associations of the words we use. Mostly on verbs and nouns. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, the verb “kill” doesn’t necessarily have to mean

For instance take the verb “kill.”

If there’s food on the table, I must “kill” it.

This fool “killed” me in Street Fighter.

We can’t ignore the metaphorical meaning that to “kill” literally means to end someone’s life.

However, what we are not usually aware of is how we might build off those associations. If we keep using the word “kill” in these non-serious contexts, like playing video games, then eventually maybe the subject itself elicits a perception that beating some one eventually becomes a matter of preserving or ending life.

When we perceive things a certain way, we learn a way to react to it, and if we somehow come in confrontation with it, how to act upon or in reaction to it.

If this statement is true (and I think it is for the most part), I think back to that oft-used public metaphor of “killing cancer.”

I wonder how molecular biologists doing research on cancer even would internally frame their objectives. Does that involve “killing cancer” at all costs, consciously and/or unconsciously? Or is that more a facade used to rally support and funding from the public and donors?