What can metaphors tell us about personality?


Social psychologists have focused on whether metaphor-related experiences (e.g., of physical warmth or coldness) affect people in general. Personality psychologists can answer a different sort of question – namely, whether metaphors matter in what makes us different from each other. The answer to the latter question appears to be yes. The extent to which people like or prefer certain types of experiences (e.g., sweet foods) provides important information concerning their personalities. Whether people locate the self in the heart or the head allows us to understand whether they are logical or emotional, friendly or distant, smarter or less smart, etc. People differ considerably in whether they think metaphorically or not and such individual differences may be important in appreciating the functions – both benefits and potential costs – of metaphoric thinking. We envision quite a few future insights along the present lines, insights that will be important to both the personality and metaphor literatures.

What advice might be made on the basis of the reviewed findings? Be wary of people who wear red or seem to surround themselves with this color. Avoid wearing red oneself as it might provoke hostility in others. Find out whether potential friends like sweet foods or not. The former are likely to be better friends. Seek a head-locator for an intellectual conversation, but a heart-locator for a shoulder to cry on. These are but a few of the sources of advice that might follow from treating metaphors seriously in the study of personality.     


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