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English Detective # 114 The power of Metaphors and Stories
September 18, 2018

What gives metaphors and stories their power over us?

Three fascinating articles examine different aspects of the way people use metaphors and stories to share experiences. Stories build a shared set of values—a worldview—in a community or culture. They also help us understand the worldviews of others.

This Lifehacker article talks about how powerfully our minds respond to stories. They activate not only the language areas of the brain, but also motor areas (when someone describes a movement) and sensory areas (when we hear a person or place or sound described.) ”A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think…” That’s why it is so much more effective to tell a story than to just use logic to make a point.

The BBC discusses “how stories have shaped the world.” From epics like the Iliad to modern novels, stories have helped different cultures understand who they are & what they value. It describes how stories have changed history and how new technologies for storytelling are likely to provoke more changes.

Finally, the Atlantic tells how the U.S. government (and especially its intelligence or spy agencies) would like to build a database of metaphors in several languages. Studying their metaphors would lead to a deeper understanding of those cultures and their worldviews. This is a longer article, but it is full of insights into the ways varying metaphors reflect varying perspectives on life.

Related Vocabulary

activate- to make a process active; start it working

automate- make it possible for a machine to do something on its own (without constant human involvement)

metaphor- a way of showing how an idea or process works by comparing it to something well-known

narrative- writing that tells a story

novel- book length fiction (invented story)

Warmly, Catherine Simonton,

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