Friday, April 8, 2011

thoughts on: I is an Other

I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the WorldI Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World by James Geary

Fascinating look at how metaphor not only permeates our language, but affects our ability to understand our world.  Metaphor, as it is studied here, goes beyond the literary device with which are all familiar.  It describes an important brain function which enables us to make sense of the world by connecting the unfamiliar to the familiar.

Geary begins with language, how we invent new words using old ones, or give new meanings to old words, and how often we use metaphor (on average, one metaphor in every ten to 25 words).  He discusses how figurative language is used in various fields, such as economics, politics, advertising, etc, and how this influences us.  He shares with us how marketing research uses metaphorical thinking to more effectively market whatever it is they're trying to sell - be it a product, an idea, or a person.  He discusses those who are unable to think metaphorically, and how that impacts their social functioning; traces the development of metaphoric thought in chidren; and demonstrates its significance and similarities cross culturally.   

My description of this book isn't doing it justice.  I found it fascinating.  I especially liked reading about what research has revealed about our brains, how one sense is linked to another, a new concept to one long understood, how easily words can prime us towards desired responses. 

Oh, and as one who loves to read, this pleased me no end:  "Neuroimaging studies show that practical learning, too, takes place whenever we read stories.....Many of the brain areas active while reading are also active when we actually take part in or observe similar situations in real life."  Yes, I always love it when research supports what I already believe, and this is why I have never agreed with "at least she is reading" as an excuse to allow children to read trash.  

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