I is an Other | James Geary

Summary of: I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World
By: James Geary

The Power of Metaphor

Metaphors shape our actions, worldview, and explanation of new discoveries, as showcased by the use of metaphors in psychotherapy and science.

The language we use shapes our thoughts and behavior, often through the use of metaphors. A client with an unhealthy professional outlook saw work as war, making him compete with others and refuse feedback. By changing his metaphor to work as playing in an orchestra, he was able to cooperate with others and improve his work performance. Similarly, metaphors play a significant role in explaining new scientific discoveries. For example, the atom was initially described as a plum pudding, with negatively charged electrons as raisins in a positively charged pudding until it was discovered that electrons move around the nucleus, just as planets orbit a star. This new understanding required a metaphorical shift, and the atom was more accurately described as a solar system, with the nucleus representing the star. Metaphors offer a powerful means of shaping our view of the world and our place in it, and they are key in expanding our knowledge and understanding of the universe.


The power of metaphor extends far beyond the realm of literature. In ‘I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World,’ James Geary demonstrates how metaphors are crucial for understanding the world around us, as they occur in our writing, speech, and even gestures. This summary delves into the importance of metaphor in various fields, including technology, economics, politics, science, and psychology. Get ready to explore how metaphors can simplify complex ideas, influence our actions, and foster innovative solutions, all while remaining an essential tool for communicating meanings in our everyday experiences.

The Power of Metaphors

Metaphors are more than just poetic devices. They are essential tools that help us communicate complex concepts and experiences in relatable ways. A single metaphor can convey more meaning than a literal description. Metaphors occur in our daily lives and are crucial to understanding the world around us. From Shakespearean sonnets to scientific writing, metaphors make it possible to describe something unknown or unfamiliar in terms of something familiar. They allow us to see the world differently and understand difficult concepts more easily. Metaphors are a vital part of human communication and play an integral role in shaping our experiences and interpretations of the world.

Metaphors in Body Language

Metaphors are present not only in verbal language but also in non-verbal cues, such as body language. Our physical gestures and posture communicate underlying emotions and influence others’ interpretations of our speech. Metaphor can also connect our body and mind, as evidenced by priming studies where people modify their behavior based on verbal or visual stimuli. These non-verbal cues also contribute to concepts like proximity, which can indicate both emotional and physical intimacy. In essence, metaphor links our mind and body, shaping our communication with the world around us.

The Power of Metaphors in the Financial World

Metaphors wield a great deal of power in the financial world. It is through these literary devices that economists create a narrative, encouraging investors to engage in the market. There are two kinds of metaphors namely “agent” and “object” metaphors that are used to depict the market. Agent metaphors are prevalent during an upward trend as it implies that the market is improving on its own accord, while object metaphors are common during the downward trend, as it suggests that the market has no control over external circumstances. These metaphors help sway investors into investing. However, this is not all. Once the investors are exposed to these metaphors, they fall victim to a phenomenon called expectancy bias. This bias makes them believe that they have recognized a trend and that trend will continue even if it doesn’t. In essence, investors are convinced of fictitious patterns, impacting their investment behavior. While metaphors in literature reveal complex emotions, metaphors in economics tend to create confusion.

The Power of Political Metaphors

In politics, metaphors are widely employed by politicians to influence public opinion and sway people’s voting decisions. These metaphors hold great suggestive power, triggering unconscious responses in the listeners and readers. Psychologist Thomas Gilovich conducted a study on the impact of historical and political allusions used in metaphors to influence people’s decision-making. The study found that people were more likely to intervene in a situation when it was related to a situation like World War II, whereas those related to Vietnam War were less likely to get involved. The use of metaphors in political language also includes comparing the nation to a body, which allows politicians to discuss issues like immigration in terms of “contamination by foreign agents.” Such metaphors hold a critical impact on people’s thoughts related to the subject. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and reflect upon these metaphors instead of blindly getting captivated by the rhetoric of politicians.

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