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Metaphors for the Mind, Thinking and Thought: A Literature Review

Qualifying Paper

Submitted by

Becky DeVito

November, 2006

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1541179


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Contents

I. Introduction and Theoretical Framework. . . . . 1


II. Research Questions . . . . . . . 5
III. Methods: . . . . . . . . . 6
IV. Findings . . . . . . . . . 8
Category 1: The mind is a body . . . . . . 10
Category 2: The mind is a gathering of people . . . . 17
Category 3: The mind is a person of a certain occupation . . 22
Category 4: The mind is a container or collector of objects . . 25
Category 5: The mind is a tool . . . . . . 29
Category 6: The mind is an image maker . . . . . 32
Category 7: The mind is a structure . . . . . 34
Category 8: The mind is a plant . . . . . . 36
Category 9: The mind is a territory . . . . . 37
Category 10: The mind is a body of water . . . . 39
Category 11: The mind is a theatrical performance . . . 41
Category 12: The mind is a force or source of energy . . . 43
Patterns that Span the Categories . . . . . . 45
V. Conclusions and Discussion . . . . . . 48
References . . . . . . . . . 53
Appendix A: Structural Metaphor Cues . . . . . 57
Appendix B: Data Collection . . . . . . . 60
Appendix C: Sampling Strategy . . . . . . 66
Appendix D: Guiding Questions for Coding Metaphors . . . 68
Appendix E: Order of Analyses in Addressing the Research Questions . 71
Appendix F: Active and Passive Epistemological Metaphors . . 72

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1541179


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I. Introduction and Theoretical Framework:

A New Way of Thinking about Thinking: Structural Metaphors

Conventional wisdom suggests that using a metaphor is a less direct manner of

communication than stating our ideas plainly in literal terms. Metaphors are less direct

because we need to translate our original ideas into a more literary language. However,

over the past few decades, cognitive linguists have countered the above characterization

of metaphor. They have argued that metaphors are more prominent in our everyday

thinking than simply as a fancier mode of expression. There have been many linguistic

studies that have demonstrated that people tend to express themselves using subtle

references to metaphors that are often not even consciously recognized. For example, in

casual conversation about a mental task with which one is having difficulty, such as

writing a paper or completing a math problem, one might say that he or she is “stuck.” A

literal interpretation of the word “stuck” does not allow us to correctly interpret this

statement, since it refers to physical movement that has somehow been impeded. Instead,

the word “stuck” must be interpreted in abstract terms to be understood as pertaining to

one’s performance in a mental task. The metaphor that governs this usage of “stuck” for

a mental activity is thinking is a journey, which means that unproductive thinking would

be analogous to experiencing an unwanted temporary delay in that journey.

Subtle cues such as “stuck” are not what we would consider to be a novel or

intentional use of metaphor, since we are largely unaware that such commonplace

expressions invoke metaphors. These subtle cues indicate the presence of structural

metaphors, which are the basic conceptual metaphors by which we organize our thinking

about different topics (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 1999). My specific research
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interests are on structural metaphors for the mind (for example, the mind is a container,

the mind is a body in motion, the mind is a tool for manipulating ideas). See Appendix A

for more details on these structural metaphors for the mind and their origins, and ways in

which they might be revealed in everyday speech.

A number of studies have shown that the English language has several different

ways of conceptualizing the mind using structural metaphors (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson

1999, 1980; Sweetser 1990; Jäkel 1995; for comparisons with Chinese metaphors of the

mind, see Yu 2003, 2004). In addition to identifying these overarching categories for the

mind, further work has been done to identify the corollary metaphors for thinking and

thought, such as thinking is moving (a subset of the mind is a body metaphor, Lakoff &

Johnson 1999), and ideas are objects (either to store, as a subset of the mind is a

container metaphor, or to manipulate, as in the mind is a tool metaphor). I refer to the

structural metaphors for thinking and thought as epistemological metaphors.

With an understanding that our conceptions of reality are intimately shaped by the

social influences of our cultures and our personal experiences, I believe many who study

cognitive linguistics would agree with Jaynes’ (1976, 55) summary of the importance of

metaphor to the human mind: “Subjective conscious mind is an analog of what is called

the real world. It is built up with a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms are all

metaphors or analogs of behavior in the physical world.” Like many who study

semiotics, I would also broaden the term metaphor to include all types of signs rather

than restricting it to language-based signs (although other types of signs, such as visual

metaphors, are beyond the scope of this paper). For these reasons, studying the
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metaphors we use in everyday language may offer a relatively direct route into studying

important aspects of cognition.

However, while we may study metaphor usage as a means of studying cognition,

it is important to recognize that determining the meaning an individual makes of any

particular utterance is a very tricky endeavor that may be impossible to achieve. I agree

with Strauss and Quinn (1997, 6) when they explain:

…what something (a word, an object, an event) means to somebody


depends on exactly what they are experiencing at the moment and the
interpretive framework they bring to the moment as a result of their past
experiences. A cultural meaning is the typical…interpretation of some
type of object or event evoked in people as a result of their similar life
experiences….

Therefore, whenever interpretations are given for keywords that appear to invoke a

metaphor in this paper, they are given at a cultural level; it is understood that they are not

meant to cover the complete, multifaceted meanings that any given individual would

attach to the word or phrase. Instead, the interpretations offered here are likely

approximations of how many people from contemporary English speaking countries

might process the word or phrase, given their experiences in, and mastery of, using a

common vocabulary, grammar, and idioms for their own pragmatic purposes.

Practical Implications for Structural Metaphors

While structural metaphors have been identified and used to argue that human

thinking is inherently figurative instead of literal (Lakoff & Johnson 1999), the practical

implications for organizing one’s thinking via these metaphors has been largely

unexplored. Some authors (e.g., Gigerenzer 1991, Gibbs 1994) argue that cognitive

psychologists’ theories of how the mind works (and therefore the metaphors on which
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they base their models) are actually shaped by the analytic and experimental tools that

they use. Given the rich body of work that already exists in describing structural

metaphors and growing interest in metaphor research as an interdisciplinary venture (e.g.,

Ortony 1993), now is an opportune time to guide this foundational work into research

that will benefit our understanding of cognition in the service of educational goals. For

example, do the metaphors for the mind that we hold influence the ways we go about

acquiring information and solving problems, and if so, are certain metaphors for the mind

preferable for certain types of tasks (e.g., the mind is a container might be more

conducive for tasks that require memorization, and the mind is a tool might be a better

guide for orienting students to complex problem solving tasks). Furthermore, if

instructors incorporate certain metaphors for the mind in their everyday speech, will

students begin to favor (and possibly even exhibit behavior that reflects) those metaphors

while demonstrating their skills in that particular subject area? Such research can be used

to directly inform issues pertaining to metacognition and general thinking skills, and can

be particularized to fit different curricula in cases where certain approaches to learning

are favored over others. In preparation for addressing these educational concerns later in

my career, I work toward organizing a more comprehensive list of metaphors for the

mind in the present study.

Some studies have focused on intentional use of metaphor in educational settings

and found that certain metaphors and/or certain ways of elaborating on the metaphors are

much more conducive to engendering deep understanding (e.g., Gentner & Gentner 1983;

Mayer, 1993). At least one study in the field of education has alluded to the expression

of a structural metaphor (Cameron 2003). However, I have not been able to find any
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empirical studies that focus on a given type of structural metaphor, such as for the mind

or epistemologies, with the exception of a study related by Gibbs (1994) that focused on

aspects of the mind is a container and anger is heated fluid in a container metaphors.

Structural metaphors are important to study because our use of them is not conscious, so

we may be revealing ways of thinking and possibly even advocating certain ways of

thinking with our everyday speech without even realizing it.

II. Research Questions

Research Question 1: What structural metaphors for the mind and

epistemological metaphors have already been identified in the cognitive linguistics

literature? I pose this research question because a comprehensive literature review of

structural metaphors for the mind has not yet been completed.1 This research question is

necessarily limited to the narrow scope of the relevant literature, which is within the field

of cognitive linguistics during the past 26 years.

Research Question 2: What additional metaphors of these types are suggested by

key works in the study of intelligence and thinking skills, and in what ways can these

additional perspectives extend and corroborate the list of structural metaphors that have

been identified by cognitive linguists? Recognizing that structural metaphors are a new

idea within cognitive linguistics, it is very likely that the current literature contains only

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Genter and Grudin (1985) gathered a sample of psychology literature dating from 1894 to 1975 and
searched for metaphors for the mind, but their criteria for identifying metaphors, while not explained in
depth, must have been very different from the procedures I have adapted from Lakoff and Johnson (1980,
1999), as they found that 20 of the 68 articles in the Psychological Review that they had searched through
didn’t have any metaphors for mental phenomena at all. Their study resulted in the formation of four very
broad categories of metaphors for mental phenomena: animate-being, neural, spatial, and systems.
Approximately one third of the metaphors they had identified were not placed in one of these four
categories, but in a general “conventional” category (1985, 184) that appears to contain a variety of
different types of structural metaphors, and an “idiosyncratic” category (1985, 185).
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the tip of the iceberg for structural metaphors for the mind. Intelligence and thinking

skills are fitting areas of study in which to look for metaphors for the mind and its

operations because these areas focus on the human mind. Theories pertaining to

intelligence and thinking skills might suggest structural metaphors that have not yet

arisen in the writings of cognitive linguists, thereby expanding the breadth of the

collection of structural metaphors that will result from this study.

Research Question 3: Given the above research questions, how might these

metaphors be organized into a taxonomy? I entered into this study with the expectation

that the epistemological metaphors would likely be nested within the broader metaphors

for the mind. Also, I didn’t expect the categories to be entirely distinct from one another,

so I traced the ways in which some metaphor cues may refer to different epistemological

metaphors, and how some epistemological metaphors may be used to reference different

metaphors for the mind. I did not expect to find a single hierarchy that would

meaningfully categorize all of the metaphors in the review, so in addition to presenting

the metaphors in a nested fashion in Table 1, I offer commentary on how metaphors

developed by other authors overlap with the various categories I have found. See

footnote 5 in Appendix A for an example of ways in which I had anticipated the

metaphors would overlap.

III. Methods

Approaching the Literature: Sample Selection

I collected metaphors for the mind and thinking that have been identified in the

cognitive linguistics literature to address Research Question 1, which I discuss in terms of


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my empirical findings that address Research Question 2. I addressed Research Question

2 by searching for relevant metaphors in a sample of sources that represent diverse

theories on intelligence and thinking skills, as it is possible that different orientations

toward the mind engenders the use of different metaphors. Each of the works in these

fields met the following three criteria (rationale for the criteria provided in Appendix B):

1. Major works in the field, in book format

2. Originally written in English

3. Published or republished within the past 40 years

A list of sources was developed (see Appendix B for the list and strategies I used to

develop it). A sample of 40 pages (total) from the 16 selected sources comprised the data

that is used to answer Research Questions 2 and 3. See Appendix C for the process of

selecting pages within each source.

Analysis

Within the data selected to address Research Question 2, I searched for words and

phrases that reference the mind, thinking, or thought, yet do not make sense in a literal

interpretation of their meaning within the context of the statement in which they are

found (see Appendix D for further details and exceptions). I coded and interpreted such

keywords and phrases as metaphor cues, then aligned these cues to support the claim of a

structural metaphor that is central to each group of cues. This process of using common

phrases to identify structural metaphors is promoted by Lakoff & Johnson (1980, 1999),

and has been replicated by others often. It can be used and understood by non-linguists

due to its strong reliance on the face validity of the metaphors that such cues suggest in
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the context of a particular utterance (see Appendix A to see how metaphor cues align to

suggest a particular structural metaphor).

This strategy represents a use of open coding techniques (Strauss & Corbin 1998)

with a specific focus on cues for subtle references to metaphors (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson

1980). While most of the metaphoric references are subtle cues to structural metaphors

for the mind and thinking, some authors used metaphors more explicitly. Such

intentional uses of metaphor were also recorded and included in the analysis. Once the

metaphors were collected from the cognitive linguistics and intelligence/thinking skills

literatures (in reference to Research Questions 1 and 2, see the explanation regarding the

order of addressing the research questions in Appendix E), I addressed Research

Question 3 by developing analytic questions about the organization of the metaphors

based on emergent themes, which I explored in depth through analytic memos. This

process led to the creation of a taxonomy of related metaphors (see Table 1 below).

IV. Findings

The data from this study have led to the development of twelve major categories

of metaphors for the mind, each of which is comprised of multiple metaphors for thinking

and thoughts (see Table 1; the metaphors for the mind are discussed in order of frequency

of occurrence).
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Table 1: Metaphor categories for the mind and their epistemological subcategories.
Category: Epistemological Subcategories:
The mind is a…
1. body • thinking is going on a journey
(that can move, • thinking is gesturing, using one’s muscles, or grasping an object
or with sensory • thinking is perceiving (using one of the senses)
capabilities) • quality of thinking is quality of health
2. gathering of • thinking is interacting:
people • thinking is exchanging or sharing objects of value
• thinking is communicating
• thinking is engaging in battle
• thinking is conceiving a new life
• thoughts are a group of people that can move
• thoughts are people who are related to each other
3. person (of a • thinking is performing the duties of a particular occupation, such
certain as creating art, building a structure, creating a map, managing
occupation) people, or engaging in a hobby
4. container or • thinking is storing or having possession of a physical object
collector of • thinking is actively acquiring, sorting or organizing objects
objects • abilities and knowledge are substances that have volume
5. tool • thinking is using tools
(collection of • thinking is operating machinery
tools, machine • aspects of thinking are parts of a machine
or computer) • thinking is processing materials or data
6. image maker • thoughts are images:
(artist, • thinking is creating an image
projector, or • thinking is projecting an image
shiny surface) • thinking is reflecting an image
7. structure • aspects of the mind and thinking patterns are parts of a structure
• quality of thinking is the soundness of the structure
8. plant • thoughts are parts of a plant:
• the causes of thinking habits are roots
• the results of using the mind are fruit
• broad areas of thought are branches
9. territory • metacognitive thinking is exploring a territory
• defining the mind’s abilities is dividing a territory into domains
10. body of water • aspects of thinking are objects submerged in water
• thinking is exploring or navigating a body of water
• difficulties in thinking are obstacles in the water
11. theatrical • thinking is putting on a performance
performance • thoughts are performers (who play roles and use scripts)
12. force or source • thinking is using or controlling a force
of energy • lack of conscious thought is being subject to a force
• quality of thinking is the brightness of a light
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Category 1: The mind is a body

The mind is a body was by far the most commonly used metaphor for the mind in

these data (175 clear occurrences of this metaphor, compared to the next most commonly

used metaphor, the mind is a gathering of people, which occurred 98 times). The two

major subcategories2 of this metaphor are the mind is a body that can move, and the mind

is a body with sensory capabilities, both of which are highly consistent with previous

work in cognitive linguistics (e.g., Sweetser 1990). While the subcategories that

represent thinking may seem quite disparate—a simple gesture vs. going on a journey,

which requires physical movement over a much more extended period of time, or using

one’s senses vs. the condition of one’s state of health, each highlights different aspects of

the physical body, so they have been grouped together as different facets of the mind is a

body metaphor. By identifying epistemological metaphors at the level of a subcategory I

have been able to describe metaphors for thinking at a fine-grained level that preserves

the unique aspects that make each type of epistemological metaphor distinctive in its own

right. Furthermore, by grouping subcategories that share a broader theme into a single

category, I have been able to show various ways in which a given metaphor for the mind

might be elaborated upon. This strategy also serves the pragmatic function of keeping an

otherwise unruly list of metaphors organized and therefore manageable. The mind is a

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There were only two occurrences that did not easily fit within these two categories. One emphasized the
physicality of the body in Gardner’s (1983, 61) reference to “intellectual strengths,” an example that might
be considered as belonging to the subcategory of thinking is using one’s muscles in the mind is a body that
can move, since the muscularity of the body is emphasized. However, this example does not necessarily
imply that the body is in motion, and might also be thought of as denoting the soundness of a structure, in
which case it would belong to the mind is a structure category. The other example that does not fit within
the two major subcategories of the mind is a body is Gould’s (1996, 60) reference to “prejudices
themselves, not fresh data, are the primary source of renewed attention.” By referring to data as “fresh,”
and framing it as a possible source for something, it appears that Gould may be using the activity of
foraging as a metaphor for sustaining one’s attention, in which case both the mind is a body that can move
and the mind is a collector of objects categories would apply.
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body that can move category was represented by 89 examples, which had many

subcategories for the particular activity that thinking would comprise. Of these, many

were in the form of thinking is going on a journey, a metaphor that has been supported by

the cognitive linguistics literature relatively frequently. For example, Sweetser (1990,

46) talks about metaphors for “physical traveling” as a subset of her “Mind-as-Body

Metaphor” (1990, 28). It has also been referred to as thinking is moving (Lakoff &

Johnson 1999).

The metaphor thinking is going on a journey can highlight process and/or

progress in terms of physical motion, such as “the mental steps” (Gardner 1983, 22), or

when one “has made great strides” (Eysenck 1979, 22). In a more explicit example, Lave

(1988, 106) recounts that she would explain the purpose of a think aloud protocol to

participants: “so I can follow the steps you are going through in making your decision.”

Motion need not only be thought of as in terms of walking. One might “advance their

skills” (Rogoff 1990, 159) or “proceed with a new thought” (Rogoff 1990, 204).

As with many literal journeys, “arriving at” one’s final destination is often a

major goal, and there are different “ways” to do so, as Guilford (1967, 43) notes, “It is

readily granted that there are other ways than factor analysis of arriving at conceptions of

particular psychological functions.” Different methods of thinking were often portrayed

as choices of how one might move toward a destination. For example, multiple authors

in the study used the term “approach,” such as when Gould notes an alternate way he

might “approach” a subject area (1996, 60). Emphasis was also sometimes placed on the

physical routes to the destination, such as when Spearman states, “various have been the

paths of attempt” (1973, 43).


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With the thinking is going on a journey metaphor, the problems that one may

encounter while thinking can be expressed as physical upsets, such as “a hostile lawyer or

a tough-grading logic professor trying to trip one up” (Pinker 1997, 335). Similarly,

Rogoff (1990, 159) explains that during one of her studies, “a tutor … was instructed to

help the children only when they had run into difficulty.” When progress toward one’s

thinking goals is slow, it might be considered “plodding” (Pinker 1997, 140).

Furthermore, when thinking is not optimal, one’s thinking abilities are limited and can

“only go so far,” (Pinker 1997, 140), so one might “not happen to arrive” (Spearman

1973, 105). Alternately, one might go on a journey that extends beyond a desirable

distance; Eysenck (1979, 196) expressly limits the number of areas covered in his book,

claiming “it would take us much too far to discuss these in this volume.”

A subset of thinking is going on a journey is the metaphor thinking is navigating.

The navigating metaphors for thinking centered on the direction one might choose to

travel in, such as Arnheim’s (1969, 158) reference to whether or not a certain way of

considering information was a “sensible orientation.” Navigation metaphors also

appeared in the form of how a guide or navigator might actively help one on his or her

journey, such as Rogoff’s (1990, 204) “likely to provide direction in problem solving”

and Perkins’ (1995, 284) claim that certain thinking dispositions can “steer thinking…in

fruitful directions.”

A related metaphor to the above is thinking is exploring, in which the emphasis is

not on the progression or culmination of a journey, but on the characteristics of the

knowledge “domain” that is being explored. For example, Gardner (1983, 61) refers to

“...opportunities for problem finding in the domain of…” and Pinker (1997, 335) explains
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that “even the best logical inferencer has to guess which implications to explore and

which are likely to be blind alleys.”

Thinking is gesturing is also a pertinent metaphor within the mind is a body that

can move subcategory. This might involve “pointing out” (Rogoff 1990, 159) something

abstract that can’t literally be seen. Gesture is not limited to the hands, though. Thinking

can be portrayed through body language more generally. We can take a “stance” on an

issue (Goleman 1995, 158), or we can adopt a “posture” (Perkins 1995, 24). We also

might speak of how we “turn” our attention toward a certain topic of inquiry (Rogoff

1990, 140).

Thinking is using one’s muscles is an adjacent facet of the mind is a body that can

move metaphor. Goleman (1995, 43) brings to mind a way of contracting the muscles

that often occurs as a natural reflex when he talks about how one might want to “…shake

off rampant anxiety, gloom or irritability.” Dweck (2000, 42) highlights the importance

of physical skill or strength when she refers to when people are “struggling” with mental

tasks.

Thinking is grasping an object is a metaphor that assumes that thoughts are

objects which can be held in the hands. In the 40 pages of text sampled for this study,

three of the authors directly referred to understanding abstractions using a form of the

verb to grasp, such as Eysenck’s (1979, 196) reference to a person’s ability “to grasp and

utilize the concepts.” Being able to “grasp” an idea or thinking protocol also means we

can carry, or take it different places, such as when “the experimenter occasionally carried

out a specific numerical calculation on request” (Lave 1988, 106). Once we can get a

“hold” (Gardner 1983, 22) on something as abstract as a thought, we can perform even
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more actions with the hands, such as “grapple with new realms of knowledge” (Pinker

1997, 359), or “sift evidence” (Perkins 1995, 24). Sweetser’s (1990, 28) description of

the mind is a body metaphor also includes “physical holding” or “manipulation” of ideas

as if they were concrete objects. Note that while I haven’t specified a category for

thinking is manipulating objects with the hands, this existing category (Sweetser 1990,

Jäkel 1995, Turner 1996, Yu 2003) is a useful depiction and can be thought of as

encompassing the thinking is grasping an object metaphor. The thinking is manipulating

objects metaphor also overlaps with the categories of the mind is a collector of objects,

the mind is a collection of tools/thinking is using tools, and the mind is a person of a

certain occupation.

The other major subcategory of the mind is a body is the mind is a body with

sensory capabilities, represented by 84 occurrences in the sample. Four of the five senses

are represented in this sample (metaphors for the sense of smell were not present, but

have been covered in other works, e.g., Sweetser 1990, Lakoff & Johnson 1999). Not

surprisingly, the sense of sight was the most frequently referenced sense. Sometimes the

sensory organ itself was mentioned, such as in “our mind’s eye,” (Pinker 1997, 359).

Even more frequently, the act of seeing was invoked to connote knowing or

understanding; six authors within the sampled pages of text used conjugations of the verb

“to see” in this way (Guilford 1967, 43, Perkins 1995, 24). Six authors made reference to

“focusing” one’s attention (Rogoff 1990, 159). Five authors also placed emphasis on

one’s vantage point, or “perspective,” or what one’s eyes can see (a “view”), such as in

“a contextual view of intelligence provides a perspective on the nature of intelligence”

(Sternberg 1985, 44). The desire to obtain or create new knowledge can also be
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expressed using a metaphor for sight, such as when Arnheim (1969, 100) notes that

“psychologists looked for an answer.” Knowledge that is quickly or easily obtained may

only require “a glance,” as when Arnheim claims that “a glance at a child's concepts

shows….” (1969, 158).

Indications of not thinking of something can be equated with not seeing an object,

such as when something “could be overlooked” (Herrnstein & Murray 1996, 141).

Similarly, omissions in one’s thinking can be attributed to a visual handicap: “this

attitude—turning a blind eye to acts of bias—” (Goleman 1995, 158). Difficult concepts

can also be “obscured” (Gould 1996, 60) by too much detailed information.

The sense of touch was also invoked, most often to connote the more emotional

facets of thinking, such as when referring to how one might “feel” (Goleman 1995, 43,

204; Damasio 1994, 162), or a person’s “feelings” (Gardner 1983, 253; Goleman 1995,

43). In another, more explicit use of metaphor, Goleman refers to the ways in which

abstractions such as thoughts and emotions can be equated with physical sensation when

he conjectures: “that helplessness must have been palpable” (1995, 204). In one case, the

sense of touch was also implied as if a person’s learning patterns were represented by the

body, as Rogoff explains that children learned best in a situation “if their mothers had

intervened in their region of sensitivity to instruction” (1990, 159). Furthermore, the data

reveal that if thinking is using one’s sense of touch, then thoughts can be concrete objects

with a certain texture or consistency, such as when Dweck (2000, 42) quotes a participant

who feels smart “When I’m reading a hard book,” and when Perkins (1995, 262) refers to

“a firm answer.”
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The sense of hearing was represented by only one example in these data. Perkins

(1995, 262) asks a rhetorical question about abstract notions in terms of how one might

perceive them with the sense of hearing: “Why do experiential intelligence and reflective

intelligence come out sounding so much alike?” The sense of taste was also represented

by a single example. Arnheim (1969, 100) comments on trends in philosophy when he

claims: “The Lockean flavor of disapproval is still there.”

In addition to citing specific senses in metaphors for the mind, the authors also

used more general references to ways in which the senses are used to gather information

or demonstrate awareness of an idea or other abstraction. The word “sense” was used

frequently to represent awareness or understanding, such as when Pinker (1997, 359) says

we use our minds “to make sense of new domains” of knowledge. Similarly, authors

referred to the general act of perceiving, which might use any of the senses, in terms of

mental activity. While describing and defining the personal intelligences within his

theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner (1983, 253) talks about how “our ingrained

proclivities to…refine our perceptions” of other people is influenced by societal

traditions.3 The etymology of “perceive” as a metaphor in the mind is a body category is

briefly discussed by Sweetser (1990, 32).

Another facet of the mind is a body metaphor is in terms of physiology more

generally. A couple of references to health concerns also appeared in the data, suggesting

the epistemological metaphor quality of thinking is quality of health. This metaphor can

3
The phrase “refine our perceptions” in this quote appears to invoke two metaphors that are dependent on
one another—one in which the mind is a tool or machine, which can process or “refine” materials, and one
in which the mind is a body and the “perceptions” that one would literally receive through one’s senses
represent a tangible substance or object which is in some way altered (refined, in this case) within the mind.
The end result of this process would be the transformation of concrete perceptions into intangible
knowledge such as judgments. Alternately, it might be interpreted: the mind is a machine, thoughts and
perceptions are substances (materials to be processed).
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be used in implicit disapproval of an attitude or habit of thinking, such as when Goleman

(1995, 158) refers to “letting the virus of prejudice spread.” By equating physical

maladies with undesirable states of mind, one would need to “recover” from an episode

of agitation or other obstacle to clear thinking, such as when Goleman (1995, 204)

describes: “she had largely recovered from the ready panic….” I do not know how

promisingly the quality of thinking is quality of health metaphor might expand to be

useful for describing many different aspects of thinking. However, it clearly places an

inherent value judgment on the topic of discussion that could be used for steering one’s

listener toward or away from certain ways of thinking—an important nuance for any type

of communication, but even more so in the field of education where guiding the thinking

habits of others is the central goal. Sweetser (1990, 43) hints at the mortality aspect of

the mind is a body metaphor with her exploration of how “touch and tactile sensation is

generally used for emotional sensations...we can be emotionally ‘wounded’….” Lakoff

and Johnson (1999, 241) offer a strikingly similar metaphor to the one presented here, “A

Well-Functioning Mind is a Healthy Body” as the premise of their “Acquiring Ideas is

Eating” metaphor, but they explore the connection between thinking and health in terms

of eating rather than disease and recovery, a dimension that is suggested by the examples

here.

Category 2: The mind is a gathering of people

The second most frequently used category in these data is the mind is a gathering

of people, paired with the broad epistemological metaphor thinking is interacting. The

data suggested many different ways that interacting might be interpreted, so the

subcategories that represent thought and the act of thinking are quite varied in tenor.
18
While examples in one subcategory may center on overt expression of an interaction

between two or more people, such as an exchange of objects, examples in another

subcategory, such as thoughts are people who are related to each other, imply an

interaction in the relationship that they share. Each of the subcategories at some level

implies an interaction among people, which is why they have all been grouped within the

same overarching category. One of the most frequently used subcategories was thinking

is exchanging objects or signs. This is a nested pair of metaphors that I had hypothesized

I would see (DeVito 2006) based on my own observations of how people use language

that describes social interactions to speak about their learning experiences and from

encountering metaphors which fit within this broad category in the cognitive linguistics

literature, such as ideas are commodities (Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Gibbs 1994).

In some cases, ownership of an idea might be seen as something that fluctuates as

one considers different options, such as when Guilford (1967, 43) says “If we grant that

aptitude factors have scientific status….” Thoughts are also portrayed as objects that can

be shared (in this case, among minds rather than within a single mind), such as when

Rogoff (1990, 204) refers to “the experience of complex sharing of ideas.”

Sometimes the exchange might not be specified in terms of concrete objects, but it

is clear that a deal is being made involving things of value. For example, Pinker (1997,

359) uses a metaphor in which a type of thinking is represented as a person who is

making an offer in a deal: “In return, mathematical thinking offers….” The emphasis can

also be placed more on the players involved in the deal rather than what the deal entails.

For example, Sternberg (1985, 44) personifies two different areas of knowledge and uses

the term “deals with” to connote an interaction between them: “The bulk of contemporary
19
intelligence research deals with intelligence in relation to the internal world of the

individual.”

There were also several occurrences of metaphors that centered on the mind is a

gathering of people, thinking is exchanging signs (which can more commonly be thought

of as thinking is communicating). In this metaphor, the mode of communication is often

verbal, such as when Arnheim (1969, 100) writes: “Experiments on problem solving have

told us much about…” and when Gould (1996, 60) refers to “the general message” he has

gleaned from studying research on intelligence. Sometimes a human is shown as

initiating dialogue with an inanimate object as if it were another human, such as when

LeDoux (2002, 262) tells us to “consult the Websites…” and sometimes the knowledge

one has gained is animated and given voice, as in the example presented by Herrnstein &

Murray (1996, 141) where the result of a study “continues to tell a story of its own.”

Additionally, a well elaborated idea, such as a specific psychological theory, can

communicate in a very detailed manner, such as when Dweck (2000, 140) states: “it [the

model] spells out the personal theories and the goals that set up the explanatory styles”

that people use to understand their situations.

In addition to the metaphor in which thoughts are people who exchange objects

and engage in forms of communication, I have also detected a number of unexpected

additional subcategories in which thoughts are people that can relate to each other and

behave in different ways. These metaphors tended to overlap with other personifying

metaphors for the mind that I found in the data, such as the mind is a body, and the mind

is a person of a certain occupation. The reason I put them into the mind is a gathering of

people category and not in already existing categories is because each of the examples
20
required more than one person to be present, and implied some type of interaction among

the people.

A metaphor of this type is the mind is military personnel, thinking is engaging in

battle. While I have not seen the metaphor thinking is engaging in battle identified in the

literature, the metaphor overlaps with Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999, 77) “Argument is

War” metaphor, but as a conflict that is internalized within a single mind. Some uses of

this metaphor focus on the existence of a problem or conflict. For example, Rogoff

(1990, 140) quotes Vygotsky in a metaphor that equates different types of thinking that

occur within the mind as military personnel from opposing sides: “conflict between

antagonistic forms of thinking.” Uses of the metaphor can focus on the offensive actions

of the opposing side in order to characterize a problem in thinking, such as when

Arnheim (1969, 158) refers to an “onslaught of information.” The metaphor can also be

used in ways that emphasize strategy as a means of defeating the opponent, such as when

Perkins (1995, 262) refers to “the artful deployment of our faculties of thinking.”

There are some examples of the mind is a gathering of people metaphor that

reference the mind is a body metaphor in a way that suggests that thoughts are a group of

people who can move. LeDoux (2002, 106) not only personifies memories, but implies

that they are mobile when he asks: “Why would memories be nomadic?” Similarly, Lave

(1988, 140) uses a metaphor in which thoughts and other constructions of the mind are

people who are capable of movement when she claims that an idea “stands in

contradiction with the value and prestige….” There is one type of a mind is a body

metaphor that I consider to be a subcategory within the mind is a gathering of people

category because it requires more than one person: the mind is a fertile couple, which can
21
“conceive” ideas (Spearman 1973, 43), or speak of something that “would be engendered

in the brain” (Damasio 1994, 235).

Other examples in the mind is a gathering of people category did not overlap with

personifying metaphors, but highlighted the social nature of humanity without directly

stressing communication or the exchange of objects. I simply refer to these social

metaphors using the broad epistemological category, thinking is interacting. Some ways

in which thoughts or mental functions interact may be counterproductive, as Pinker

(1997, 140) explains: “The speech decoder…should be left to do its job without

interference from kibbitzers in the rest of the mind.” In this example, Pinker personifies

the thinking process that involves making sense of speech as a person whose occupation

is to decode speech, and notes that other aspects of thinking—other people, who could be

meddlesome or distracting—could hamper this process.

There were nine occurrences of metaphors that use power relationships among

people as metaphors for thinking, such as when Eysenck (1979, 22) states: “the choice is

governed by….” Similarly, when Gardner (1983, 22) claims that “a new form of

study…is currently enjoying hegemony,” he is using a metaphor that personifies thinking

and further highlights power imbalances among different types of thinking. In this way,

he implies that thoughts are people who interact with each other and showcases a

common social phenomenon without emphasizing other subcategories of the mind is a

gathering of people metaphor such as communication, an exchange of objects, or any of

the personifying categories mentioned above. However, not all metaphors that represent

thinking as exerting social power belong in a single subcategory. There is an example in

which the metaphor the mind is a gathering of people highlights a combination of social
22
power and either the appropriation of an object or assimilation of a person into the larger

group, as when Pinker (1997, 359) concludes, “So vision was co-opted for mathematical

thinking.”

Another example of a metaphor that implies that social interactions occur within

the mind is one in which thoughts are people who are related to each other. Lave (1988,

140) claims that “Two other sets of conflicting principles are closely related,” while

concepts that are very similar to each other might be considered to be “twins” (Perkins

1995, 262). Thoughts need not be depicted as being related in order to emphasize their

similarity, however. There were a few examples in the data that brought rise to the

metaphor that thoughts are people who can congregate, such as in the phrase “schools of

thought” (Guilford 1967, 335; Lave 1988, 24).

Similar to the metaphors the mind is a gathering of people, thoughts are people

(who can move, or who are related to each other), the metaphor “ideas are persons” has

been suggested in the semiotics literature by Danesi (2004, 69). In another, different

overlap with the existing literature, Yu (2003, 142) offers an example expression,

“exchange of thoughts/ideas,” but categorizes it as “thinking is object manipulation,”

rather than as belonging to the category presented in the current study, the mind is a

gathering of people.

Category 3: The mind is a person of a certain occupation

The category that had the most subcategories is the mind is a person of a certain

occupation, which highlighted the particular actions of performing different occupations,

each of which is named as a subcategory. I found 22 subcategories, with many


23
subcategories represented by only one or two examples from the data. Therefore, I focus

the discussion on the more frequently referenced occupations that had 5 or more

examples.4

The mind is an artist, thinking is creating art is a metaphor that is employed when

someone’s knowledge or part of their mind is portrayed as creating visual art, such as

when Lave (1988, 140) states: “The supermarket math data illustrate this very well.” In

other cases, creating pottery or sculpture might be the imagery that is given for what the

mind does when it is at work, such as when Dweck (2000, 140) refers to “how people's

beliefs shaped their motivation.” While Lakoff and Johnson (1999, 240; emphasis

retained from the original) also note that “ideas can be crafted, fashioned, shaped, and

reshaped,” they place these kinds of examples into their broad “Thinking is Object

Manipulation” category rather than emphasizing the artistic nature of these activities and

labeling them as such with a more specific metaphor category.

The mind is a construction worker, thinking is building a structure is a metaphor

that was used by many of the authors of these data. Some of the examples focused on the

act of building, such as when Rogoff (1990, 140) referred to the “logical relations that

children construct,” or when Gardner (1983, 61) explains that not only problem solving

skills, but the ability to find new problems is an important aspect of intelligence, “thereby

laying the groundwork for” further learning. Other examples in the data focused more on

the descriptions of the structures that one has created via thinking, such as when Guilford

(1967, 43) begins to explain, “One line of evidence that supports the theory is….”

4
One of the subcategories generated by these data is the mind is an accountant, thinking is accounting,
which is supported by only a few examples, and so is not discussed at length here to leave room for the
metaphors that were more robustly supported by examples in these data. However, it is important to note
that there is much overlap between this category and Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999, 246) metaphor “Thought
as Mathematical Calculation.”
24
Other examples refer to ideas as structures as a means of evaluating their quality, such as

when Sternberg (1985, 44) claims, “this view lacks substantive theoretical grounding.”

While Lakoff and Johnson (1999, 338) have very briefly posited the metaphor “Mind as

Builder,” the examples from these data as well as from their “Theories (and Arguments)

are Buildings” metaphor (1980, 46), serve to give shape and scope to what that metaphor

entails. It is also important to note that constructivist theories of human development

(e.g., Vygotsky 1978, Kegan 1982) are explicitly based on this particular metaphor in

which a person actively constructs his or her own particular meaning from information or

experiences based on his or her current understandings.

The mind is a cartographer, thinking is creating a map metaphor is one that was

used several times, but by one author in these data. However, in my readings I have

come across multiple authors that have explicitly used mapping metaphors to explain

how the mind works when it makes connections among bits of data (e.g., Fauconnier

1994, 1997; Fauconnier & Turner 2002, Lakoff &Turner 1989). Therefore, I present one

of Damasio’s (1994) examples as representative of a literature where scholars of

cognition deliberately use a mapping metaphor to explain certain mechanisms of

thinking. In this example, he refers to one’s awareness of one’s physical being as

“represented anew, in multiple concerted maps” (235).

Another subcategory is the mind is an executive, thinking is managing. Some

authors placed the emphasis on the act of managing, such as Goleman’s (1995, 43)

reference to “managing emotions,” or when Rogoff (1990, 204) speaks of “the

management of problem solving.” Sometimes the emphasis may be on planning and

decision making, such as when Pinker (1997, 140) explains that, when moving about in
25
one’s environment, certain types of information “…must be available to the decision

processes that plan the next step or grasp.” In a broader use of the metaphor, Gardner

(1983, 22) refers to the “executive functions” that guide our thinking.

Another relatively commonly used metaphor is the mind is a hobbyist, thinking is

putting together a puzzle. Although this is not a traditional occupation in the sense of

making a living, it is a way of conferring an identity according to one’s focus of attention

and relevant actions, as with the other occupations listed in this category. In the data for

this study, four different authors used the term “puzzle” in some way to refer to the act of

thinking or problems one comes across while thinking. Perkins (1995, 24) uses the word

to refer to the act of thinking when he says, “He began to puzzle over….” In a different

use of the metaphor, LeDoux (2002, 262) implies that we don’t yet fully understand a

particular phenomenon when he says: “Although not all of the pieces of the puzzle are in

place today….”

Category 4: The mind is a container or collector of objects

There are 61 occurrences of the mind is a container or collector of objects

metaphor in these data. While coding for the well-known mind is a container metaphor

(e.g., Lakoff & Johnson 1999, this metaphor is also confirmed by D’Andrade’s (1987)

empirical research on a folk theory of the mind), I noticed that many of the metaphors for

thinking were passive as I had expected: they involved merely storing objects, such as

when LeDoux (2002, 262) describes an abstraction like “life’s experiences” as “being

stored as memories.” Unexpectedly, I also came across many examples that implied that

the mind was much more active than an inanimate container, which is why I have
26
modified the category to also include the mind is a collector of objects. These types of

metaphors are quite common, even though I had not encountered an elaboration of this

theme within the literature. For example, Damasio (1994, 105) refers to “The acquisition

of new knowledge,” a phrase educators and cognitive scientists probably have seen

hundreds of times, if not more.

In these more active constructions of the mind, which I will elaborate on below,

thoughts were portrayed as objects that are acquired, sorted, and/or placed in appropriate

spaces, actions that mere containers cannot perform. However, there are many themes on

what types of objects thoughts are, and these themes are prominent whether the mind is

depicted as a container or the collector who stores them in a container. Therefore, I have

grouped them all in one combined category for the mind, with the understanding that one

could further sort the examples according to one’s research needs. It is also important to

note that my mind is a collector of objects aspect of the category overlaps quite a bit with

a folk theory of the mind identified by Jäkel (1995). Jäkel emphasizes the sorting and

storing of idea objects by identifying the activities of “Stockkeeping” (1995, 212), and

the occasional act of eliminating unnecessary objects from a collection through “Waste

disposal” (1995, 215). However, his discussion of this metaphor is focused on attributes

of memory (idea objects one already has possession of), and does not entail the active

acquisition of idea objects, which is also included in the mind is a collector of objects

metaphor.

One of the prominent metaphors for thoughts is that they are objects of value,

which is why someone would want to possess them. Dweck (2000, 42) quotes a

participant that demonstrated the attitude that intelligence is something that can be
27
obtained: “I want to learn how to get smart.” Thoughts and qualities of mind were also

shown as objects that can be collected to make a complete set, such as when Perkins

(1995, 262) refers to “learning a set of concepts.” Some thinking strategies are implied

as being so valuable one would never want to get rid of them, as Pinker (1997, 335)

claims: “Logic is indispensable….” Conversely, since these objects are shown to have

some value, one would not want to lack them, as Goleman (1995, 43) refers to: “People

who are poor in this ability….”

Another frequent characteristic of thoughts in this category is that, as objects, they

take up space. It is interesting that many of the references to the mind as a container in

terms of the container having a capacity to hold a certain amount of ability or knowledge

has come in the context of critiques of a model of intelligence in which a person’s

abilities are determined through genetics and fixed throughout one’s life. Perhaps this is

because most containers we use are of a fixed volume, which is a fitting metaphor for the

view in which a person’s intelligence is fixed throughout one’s life (the opposing view

might be portrayed as a balloon that increases in size as one acquires more and more

knowledge). While describing one of her research studies, Dweck (2000, 61) explained a

trend in which those participants that held a fixed view of intelligence “defined

intelligence as a person's inherent capacity or potential.” In this use of the metaphor, the

mind is a container that has a certain volume, and abilities and knowledge are objects or

substances that take up space within the container. In a few of the mind is a container

examples, intelligence is characterized as a substance that fills the container. For

example, Perkins (1995, 24) refers to those who hold a fixed view of intelligence as

characterizing “intelligence as a pure essence measured out more to some people and less
28
to others.” Furthermore, Sternberg (1985, 44) emphasizes the measurability of this

substance: “There is a need to generate some kind of external standard that goes beyond

the view, often subtly hidden, that intelligence is what IQ tests happen to measure.”

It is important to note that while the mind is a container metaphor may be used

for the purposes of characterizing a view of intelligence that one then plans to critique, it

also may be used to highlight qualities of the mind that are widely praised. For example,

as described in the previous paragraph, Perkins uses a version of the mind is a container

metaphor in the course of critiquing a theory of intelligence that many experts believe to

be outdated. Elsewhere in the same book (1995, 284) he uses the container metaphor in a

much more positive light when he uses the term “openmindedness.” This term implies

not only that the mind is a container, but that an open mind is one into which a person

can put new knowledge. Recall that several other examples characterize thoughts as

objects that have value, so it is likely that one would desire to keep and store them. By

contrast, the implication is that a closed mind will not allow new knowledge in; one

cannot put additional objects into a closed container.

In the more active mind is a collector of objects examples, thoughts may be

portrayed as objects that are to be distinguished from one another and sorted. For

example, while describing the personal intelligences, Gardner (1983, 253) refers to our

“proclivities to make discriminations among our own feelings.” It is likely that the

purpose of making distinctions among these objects is to organize them, such as when

Perkins (1995, 284) lauds “The disposition toward thinking that is…well-organized.”

Since the thoughts are portrayed as objects in this metaphor, one would literally place

them in certain locations to organize them. Problems with one’s mental processes then
29
might be characterized as having put the object in an inappropriate location, such as in

the wrong bin or in a place where it is not easily encountered again. Lave (1988, 106)

illustrates this facet of the metaphor when she says: “it became clear that our concern was

misplaced.”

In the metaphor thinking is organizing objects (in a collection), abstractions such

as knowledge gained in a specific context might be portrayed as a physical entity that can

be moved from one part of the mind to another, such as when Spearman (1973, 105)

refers to “The possibility of such direct transference” of knowledge one has gained,

which he explains is a phenomenon that occurs when one learns something in one

situation and is then able to apply the knowledge in a similar, yet different situation. The

metaphor in which knowledge is seen as being specifically transferred from one part of

the mind or context of use to another is only exemplified once in these data, but it is one

that has been elaborated on in different ways and studied extensively in the field of

education (e.g., Bransford & Schwartz 1999, Greeno, Smith & Moore 1993, Salomon &

Perkins 1989, Perkins & Salomon 1988, and Pea 1987). The metaphor of transfer, like

the other metaphors in the mind is a collector of objects, thinking is organizing objects,

also implies that the mind is a body with the capability to move; the objects are carried by

the collector from one storage location to another.

I also found cases that could be determined to belong to both the mind is a

collector of objects, thoughts are objects to be collected, and the mind is a gathering of

people, thinking is exchanging objects categories. The phrase “accepts the notion”

(Eysenck 1979, 196) is an example that stresses acquiring and possessing a thought, but

also crosses over with the mind is a gathering of people category, in which thoughts are
30
objects to be exchanged. Similarly, one can gain a shared or temporary possession of

these thought objects, as LeDoux (2002, 262) relates: “I've borrowed from books by....”

While I don’t believe that it is either possible or desirable to create categories that are so

rigid that they exclude multiple interpretations of given expressions, it is worth noting

that placing the above examples into either of the relevant categories does not change

their interpretation compared to the scenario that is painted when considering the same

phrase in terms of the other applicable category.

Category 5: The mind is a tool

The mind is a tool is a metaphor that broadly defines the mind in terms of

physical functions that are used for practical ends. In this metaphor, the mind is a tool or

collection of tools or the mind is a machine, and thinking is using tools, or thinking is

operating machinery. Sometimes explicit references to machines are made, such as when

Pinker (1997, 359) refers to how our minds “use their machinery to make sense of” new

information in terms of what we already know. Some uses of the metaphor equate

different aspects of thinking with different parts of the machine. For instance, Gardner

(1983, 22) refers to both “the informational ‘intake’ or access mechanisms” and ‘meta-

components’ or other higher-order control mechanisms.” He uses these terms while

summarizing the views of “information-processing psychology” (22), another metaphor

in which the mind is portrayed as a machine, with emphasis on the ways in which

machines process materials—in this case, the material is information. This specific

interpretation of the mind as a machine and thinking as processing materials is supported

in the literature as well. D’Andrade’s empirical research on a folk theory of the mind
31
also found the mind portrayed as a “processor engaged in carrying out certain

operations” (1987, 116; emphasis in the original). In other cases, authors in the current

study have developed relatively elaborate depictions of the workings of machinery in

order to illustrate how the mind works. Damasio (1994, 162) explains the way in which

the mind represents different aspects of a person’s beliefs and states of self awareness,

coordinating signals among these representations to “lock the ensemble in relatively

synchronous activity” to produce the overall effect of one’s experience.

The mind is a collection of tools, and thinking is using tools is a simpler metaphor

than the mind is a machine. In an explicit use of metaphor, Lave (1988, 24), describes a

certain type of theory in psychology, where the “…mind and its contents have been

treated like a well-filled toolbox. Knowledge is conceived as a set of tools stored in

memory.” Distinct modes of thinking can represent different tools with specific

functions, such as when Arnheim (1969, 158) postulates, “If abstraction were in fact a

device of economizing by reducing the many to the few….” The subcategory thinking is

using tools is also presented in the literature by Jäkel (1995, 197) as a subset of his

“mental activity…[is] physical manipulation of solid objects” metaphor. The category

the mind is a tool suggested by these data also overlaps with Turner’s (1996, 44)

category: “A thinker is a mover and a manipulator.”

There is also a subset of the mind is a machine metaphor in which it is a very

specific type of machine: the mind is a computer, thinking is processing data. In this

metaphor, “raw data” is used in the “computational steps” (Pinker 1997, 140).

Alternately, “input” is depicted as the material the machine processes, such as when

Pinker (1997, 140) describes some of the workings of the mind: “unconscious parallel
32
processing (in which many inputs are processed at the same time, each by its own mini-

processor)….” However, this metaphor can also be used in the negative: the mind is not

a computer, as when Pinker (1997, 335) asserts: “mental logic is not a hand-held

calculator.”

Previous works have introduced and elaborated upon the mind is a machine

metaphor (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 1999). There as also been much discussion of

the mind is a computer metaphor (e.g., Searle 1980, 1992; Johnson-Laird 1988; Lakoff &

Johnson 1999). However, with the exception of Jäkel (1995), the existing literature has

not stressed the simpler yet broader mind is a tool metaphor. I believe this is an

important metaphor to keep track of because, unlike the mechanistic mind is a machine

and mind is a computer metaphors, the mind is a tool metaphor implicitly acknowledges

the user of the tool as an important aspect of how the work gets done. If the mind is a

tool, then how we use this tool—in terms of our skills and our levels of effort—are

placed in the foreground. While there may be many ways in which the mind is a machine

metaphor can be used to describe or even encourage useful thinking habits, this depiction

of the mind highlights the ways in which thinking processes are automated, and therefore

does not readily sensitize us to the opportunities to become more involved in monitoring

and redesigning our thinking processes.5

5
While I critique the mind is a machine metaphor for its tendency to highlight thinking processes as being
automated and operating largely independent of human involvement, there are aspects of this metaphor that
can be capitalized upon to encourage good thinking behaviors. For example, as Lakoff and Johnson (1999,
253) note, the mind is a machine metaphor emphasizes that thought is “produced by the mind,” in contrast
to other metaphors that portray thoughts as having “an existence independent of the mind.” The mind is a
machine portrays the mind as an active processor or assembler of thoughts, while other metaphors, such as
the mind is a container, the mind is a gathering of people (thinking is exchanging objects), and thinking is
going on a journey all tend to portray thoughts as objects that have been created or produced by some other
entity. Therefore, it appears that when one wants to emphasize the ways in which our thoughts cannot be
separated from our thinking processes—the postmodern view that there is no objective reality—this
metaphor would be more apt than some of the others, at least in this respect. On the other hand,
33

Category 6: The mind is an image maker

One category of metaphors for the mind centers on the theme that thoughts are

images, with the resulting conclusion that the mind is an image maker.6 For example,

Damasio (1994, 105) uses a thoughts are images metaphor quite directly when he speaks

of “images in the mind,” “internal images,” and “imageable knowledge.” However, there

are several forms of how the mind might go about making images (i.e., thinking). First,

the mind might actively create images, as in a mind is an artist metaphor,7 in which one

might be: “doodling in mental imagery” (Pinker 1997, 359). Sternberg’s (1985, 99)

reference to “the conceptual projection task” clearly invokes a metaphor in which the

mind is a projector and thinking is projecting an image.

A more passive construal of the mind as an image maker is invoked by the nested

metaphors the mind is a shiny surface, and thinking is reflecting an image. Lave (1988,

24) refers to how her discussion will affect the reader’s comprehension of how a

historical theme within the discipline of psychology is relevant to a particular theory in

terms of how it will “come to light…reflecting the roots of” that theory. In this example,

both the initial light8 (understanding the historical theme) as well as the relevant

personifying metaphors such as the mind is an artist might be able to portray more facets of a postmodern
philosophy, but might not be able to portray creative processes in as much detail as using imagery specific
to different types of machine mechanisms and how they operate together to create a finished product.
6
While many authors have referred to thoughts as images, I was not able to find this category in the
cognitive linguistics literature.
7
Two separate sets of examples were used to identify and support the creation of the mind is an artist
metaphors that belong to different categories of metaphors for the mind. The examples that center on the
creation of images are aligned with the mind is an artist subcategory of the mind is an image maker, and
the examples that focus on the actions artists take while creating art that are not limited specifically to
producing images align with the mind is an artist subcategory of the mind is a person of a certain
occupation.
8
Light, as a source of energy, can be thought of as its own metaphor for the capabilities of the mind, as I
will discuss in the mind is a force or source of energy category. The phrase “come to light” can also
invoke the mind is a body with sensory capabilities metaphor, in which “seeing” is understanding, and the
act of shedding light on an object allows one to “see” or understand it. While I think either of these
34
reflection (its connection to the particular theory) occur within the mind. Perkins (1995,

262) also implies that the mind is a surface that is able to reflect images when he uses the

phrase “reflective intelligence,” a term that he popularized in order to signify the

importance of reflecting on, or contemplating one’s experiences in order to abstract more

general lessons that one can allow one to behave more intelligently in the future.

Ironically, while the metaphor in which a mind is a shiny surface that reflects

images seems passive next to the more active construal of the mind’s role in thinking as

projecting or creating images, the “reflective intelligence” that Perkins (1995, 262)

describes occurs when a person deliberately recalls their experiences and actively works

to create more generalized forms of knowledge. This example shows that the same

keywords which denote a metaphor that seems passive on the surface may also imply a

view of the mind that uses active strategies for creating knowledge, depending on how

the keywords are understood within the context of their use.

In other instances, the mind as an image maker metaphor is not further specified

by the keywords, but the creation of thought-images is still denoted, such as in Damasio’s

(1994, 105) reference to “[t]he appearance of an image in recall.” Similarly, it is not

clear whether the mind is an artist or a projector in the following statement that alludes to

the mind as an image maker: “this chapter is dedicated to freshening our images of

intelligent behavior” (Perkins 1995, 24). In the above quote, one might imagine either an

artist freshening images by touching up a painting, or a projector recasting an image,

perhaps with a brighter bulb. However, in his use of the term “images” to denote the

abstract concept of “intelligent behavior,” Perkins is clearly using a metaphor in which

interpretations is apt for the above example, I would like to highlight the way in which light is required to
create a reflection, and therefore, the way in which the “reflecting” keyword gains its meaning in this
particular context.
35
thoughts are images and the mind is at least in some way involved in making those

images.

Category 7: The mind is a structure

While I found many examples of metaphors in the category the mind is a

construction worker, thinking is building a structure, there were also several metaphors

in which the mind was not the builder of the structure, but the structure itself. To

accommodate for this variation in a prevalent theme, I created the mind is a structure

category, where aspects of the mind are parts of a structure. One’s abilities, which might

be considered aspects of the mind, are depicted as supports for the structure when

Goleman (1995, 43) claims “These are the abilities that undergird….” Also implied is

the quality of one’s thinking is the soundness (i.e., stability and strength) of the structure.

For example, Pinker (1997, 359) implies that the mind is a structure and that its quality of

thinking is poor when he uses the phrase “of unsound mind.”

In a similar vein, there are things that can threaten the soundness of an existing

structure. These might include events or perceptions that cause one to lose confidence in

one’s mental abilities, an attitude that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and actually

decrease one’s mental performance, as Dweck’s research shows (2000, 2006). In one

example, she uses “undermining,” a word that connotes the action of digging beneath a

structure or excavating parts of its foundation, which would decrease its stability (2000,

42): “challenge is undermining to students with a fixed view of their intelligence.”

In addition to the mind’s abilities, some examples showed that thinking patterns

may also be considered as parts of the structure. Rational logic is one mode of thinking
36
that was equated with a specific part of a structure, when Lave (1988, 140) explains that

values in certain fields of study show “an ideology of utilitarianism, objectivity, and its

keystone, rationality.” The distinction between aspects of the mind or thinking patterns

as parts of the structure in the category the mind is a structure and the more fine-grained

metaphor where thoughts (either individual ideas or groups of ideas in a particular

context) are parts of the structure from the mind is a construction worker category is

more a matter of degree than of type. This distinction arises because in one metaphor, the

structure is actually made up of thoughts, which are the building materials of the

construction worker (mind), whereas when the structure is made up of something as

broad and abstract as the mind itself, the component parts of the structure would be

accordingly somewhat abstract, such as given abilities or thinking dispositions, which are

some of the ways that we refer to the capabilities of the mind. To contrast with the

example above, I include here an example from the category the mind is a construction

worker, thinking is building a structure (and therefore thoughts are parts of the

structures). More specific than general modes of thinking are the ideas or thoughts that

arise in specific contexts, such as when Dweck (2000, 140) identifies the most important

ideas within her theory as the base or foundation of her “model”: “Helpless and mastery-

oriented attributions and the consequences of these attributions formed the basis of our

model and are still an important part of it.”

Category 8: The mind is a plant

I found seven examples within the data that establish the nested metaphors the

mind is a plant and thoughts are parts of a plant. This set of categories, as suggested by
37
these data, is similar to Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980, 47) briefly described metaphor

“Ideas are Plants,” which is also mentioned by Danesi (2004, 69). In the data there were a

few references to the roots of a plant as the causes of a given mental attribute. The

metaphor can be used to refer to the causes of positive mental abilities, such as when

Goleman (1995, 43) writes: “Chapter 7 will investigate the roots of empathy.” It can also

be used to indicate the causes or deeply ingrained habits that support negative mental

attributes such as “the roots of prejudice” (Goleman 1995, 158), or mental problems, such

as when LeDoux (2002, 262) relates: “Psychological problems, such critics insist, are

rooted in….”

If the roots are the causes of mental attributes, the fruit of the plant are the effects;

fruit represent the results of using the mind. Arnheim (1969, 100) implies that the

benefits of thinking produce fruit when he states: “The experiments did not indicate that

the fruit of thought drops out of nowhere.” Similarly, Perkins (1995, 24) uses a fruit

metaphor to represent the idea that results from an epiphany when he uses the phrase “the

mind's apple.” It is important to note that fruit and other metaphors for food crops also

belong to the acquiring ideas is eating category that already exists in the cognitive

linguistics literature (e.g., Yu 2003).

From specific thoughts as fruit of the mind, we move to broader areas of thought,

such as entire fields of study, which might be considered to be larger collections of

thoughts. Accordingly, they would need to embody a larger area of the plant than a

single fruit. They are represented as branches, such as when Lave (1988, 24) refers to

“other branches of mathematics.”


38
Category 9: The mind is a territory

The metaphor the mind is a territory uses physical space as a means of portraying

the mind, based on six examples of text in the data. The keywords that have been used to

signify the metaphor in these data connote large tracts of land that are subject to a given

authority. It is clear that Perkins (1995, 284) is using a metaphor for the mind when he

refers to thinking dispositions in the following way: “all of these dispositions are also

realms, with action, belief, and conceptual systems.” His use of the term “realm” implies

that the mind is a large space whose boundaries are determined or delimited by a certain

authority (which is unspecified in this example, but could be a land owner or a governing

body). Pinker (1997, 359) uses the same keyword in a way that suggests that one would

experience the challenge of being in unfamiliar territory in the particular case he is

presenting when he uses the mixed metaphor: “grapple with new realms of knowledge.”

The term “domains,” which is synonymous for realms, also appeared in the data.

However, the way in which Goleman uses it draws one’s attention to the ways in which

the authority governing the territory can alter its boundaries and even create more than

one domain. Goleman (1995, 43) explains how Salovey based his characterization of

emotional intelligence on Gardner’s definition of the personal intelligences by

“expanding these abilities into five main domains.” As with the other examples, the

territory itself represents the mind or parts of the mind—in this case, one’s abilities to

recognize and manage emotions. But this example has an extra layer of interpretation,

because the metaphor is used in this context in a way that acknowledges that the authority

that governs the territory is also one or more person’s minds (in this case, Salovey’s

mind, since he is the one who expanded the territory). In the cognitive linguistics
39
literature, Turner’s (1996, 10) use of the terms “mental space” and “imaginative

domains” also point to the importance he gives to the idea of the mind as having a

physical space, which is in accordance with the mind is a territory category suggested by

these data. Jaynes (1976, 55) also speaks of “mind-space,” a very broad metaphor for the

mind that portrays the mind as a three dimensional space in which we move or use our

senses when we are thinking.

The mind is a territory metaphor can be combined with the mind is a body,

thinking is exploring metaphor when someone is being metacognitive (exploring their

own thinking habits). This type of layered metaphor has been used in an extended

metaphor about guiding one’s thinking in search of original, useful ideas in terms of

searching a landscape for gold in related literature that was not used in these data

(Perkins 2000).

Category 10: The mind is a body of water

While there were only six occurrences of the mind is a body of water metaphor in

these data, the uses of this metaphor were varied and nuanced, suggesting that it is a

metaphor that might have the capacity to be developed extensively to portray many

different aspects of the mind and thinking. There were several corollary epistemological

metaphors in this category: aspects of thinking are objects submerged in water, thinking

is exploring or navigating a body of water, and difficulties in thinking are obstacles in the

water.

One example portrays the mind as a body of water, with thinking patterns, such as

attitudes and values, portrayed as objects submerged in the water. Gardner (1983, 253)
40
calls upon this imagery when he refers to “being true to one's deepest values and

standards.” Objects in the water may also be portrayed as hazards or obstacles in order to

represent difficulties in thinking. While emphasizing that the complexities inherent to

understanding issues in the social sciences are often not readily apparent, Herrnstein and

Murray (1996, 141) tell their reader they will “describe how big the rest of the iceberg

is.” In this metaphor we are situated within a mental domain (in this case, in a sea near

one of the Earth’s poles), and complex issues are dangerous obstacles whose size is not

readily apparent (icebergs). The problem in this situation (complexities of phenomena

within the knowledge domain of the social sciences) becomes clear when we consider

that the implied epistemological metaphor in this case is thinking is navigating the water

safely.

Other cases in the data used terminology that suggested an affiliation with images

of large bodies of water, but without the specificity needed to clearly identify the

metaphor. For examples, Perkins (1995, 284) vaguely conjures images of exploring a

body of water by using the terms “deeply” and “fathom” when describing desirable

thinking patterns: “The disposition to understand deeply, to seek…to fathom the causes

and other governing factors of ideas, things, and events.” While my interpretation of this

example uses the mind is a body of water metaphor, it can also be understood using an

alternate metaphor. Jäkel (1995, 207) proposes a metaphor in which “problems are

containers, solutions are hidden inside.” In Jäkel’s metaphor for intellectual challenges

(1995, 209), the mind must probe this container for a solution, with the condition:

“intellectual quality is depth of thinking.” Searching through a body of water and a

container filled with a substance are similar experiences. In some uses of metaphors that
41
equate depth with quality or thoroughness of thinking, it may not be clear whether the

container that is filled with a substance that must be searched through represents the mind

or the problem.

The following metaphors highlighted water as a substance rather than as a large

area to explore or navigate. Each example overlaps with other categories. The following

example can be fit into two separate categories. When Pinker (1997, 335) describes the

workings of mental logic, which: “once set into motion….its inputs and outputs are piped

directly into that knowledge….” In this example, the mind is a body of water (a reservoir

of knowledge), and thinking is moving water from one area to another. It can also be

interpreted as the mind is a tool (a machine), and thinking is operating machinery (in this

case, a water pump).

Another example that illustrates the overlap of categories is when the body of

water that represents mental activity is depicted as a fountain or freshwater spring.

Spearman (1973, 43) refers to what a person would consider as his or her primary source

of knowledge when he refers to “that which he regards as the primary fount.” One might

view this as a variation of the mind is a body of water metaphor in which the thoughts are

a substance (water) which enter and fill the mind (the pool of water that surrounds the

fountain). However, one can see the purpose of a fountain as a source of water to sustain

life, in which case the mind is a body, and thinking is eating or drinking. This latter

interpretation would align with Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999, 241) category “Acquiring

Ideas is Eating.” While Lakoff and Johnson do not explicitly include water and other

liquids in their elaboration of this category, they do emphasize the “Healthful” aspect of

“Good Ideas” (241), and that “an interest in ideas” can be thought of as “having a thirst
42
for knowledge” (242). Therefore, even though I didn’t find many examples in these data

to justify the creation of a thinking is eating or drinking subcategory, the existence of a

very similar category in the literature (Lakoff & Johnson 1999, Yu 2003), as well as

similar categories suggested by these data (the mind is a body with sensory capabilities,

thinking is tasting; and the mind is a plant, thoughts are parts of a plant, such as fruit)

allow for such an interpretation in which thoughts are edible substances and learning or

taking in information is eating or drinking.

Category 11: The mind is a theatrical performance

There were six examples that pointed toward the creation of another category: the

mind is a theatrical performance. In this category, thinking is putting on a performance,

and thoughts are performers who play roles and use scripts. The most common reference

was to relate aspects of thinking to playing a role, such as when Arnheim (1969, 100)

refers to “the positive role imagery might play just because of its nature.” Likewise,

Spearman (1973, 105) portrays thoughts as people who play roles when he refers to “the

dominant part played” by the abstract relation that is found through the process of

scientific discovery. Damasio (1994, 235) not only implies that thoughts are performers,

but that a state of mind is the theatrical production in which they are performing when he

explains how certain representations in the mind “play a role in consciousness.”

In one case (Rogoff 1990, 159), the patterns of natural interactions of mothers

helping their preschool aged children to perform a task were portrayed by the author as

“scripts” that were used to help the children in their performance of the task: “children

who were taught according to scripts….” While scripts might be used to prepare for a
43
performance, the end result is always an important goal, as Goleman (1995, 43) reminds

us when he refers to a state of mind that “enables outstanding performance.”

While only a few aspects of theatrical performances were portrayed in the

metaphors of these data, the complexity of putting on a production in the performing arts

suggests that this category might be productively expanded to reveal different nuances of

the mind and its thinking processes. The performers, stagehands, set designers,

costumers, and production crew all work together for weeks on aspects such as blocking,

line delivery, lighting, sound, the set and props, promoting the show and selling tickets,

etc. Tapping into some of the rich imagery of theater—even behind the scenes—might

enable us to express some of the complexities of the human mind in ways that are

fittingly complex but still easily understood for those who haven’t formally studied

cognition.

Category 12: The mind is a force or source of energy

There were also a handful of metaphors in the data that equated the mind with a

force or source of energy. Herrnstein & Murray (1996, 254) state this metaphor directly

when they articulate the view that “intelligence…is also a force for maintaining a civil

society.” In this example, the epistemological metaphor is thinking is using or

controlling a force. Short bursts of energy9 or the oscillating force that maintains a wave

is called to mind in Goleman’s (1995, 158) reference to people’s “racist impulses.” In

this latter example, subconscious thinking, such as unexamined or ingrained attitudes,

9
In the cognitive linguistics literature, Yu (2003, 142) presents a phrase, “sparks of thoughts/ideas,” as
belonging to the category “thinking is object manipulation.” While thinking can be interpreted as an act in
which one uses a tool such as a flint and steel for the purpose of creating sparks, I would be more inclined
identify this metaphor using the mind is a source of energy category presented here, since this category
highlights both the energy that is contained in sparks and the mind’s involvement in their creation.
44
may exert a force on us rather than allowing us to use a force or source of energy as a

means to our own ends. This use of the metaphor suggests that lack of conscious

thinking being subject to a force rather than controlling it.

It is important to distinguish this category from Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999, 236)

metaphor “Reason is a Force,” which is used in concert with the mind is a body, thinking

is moving metaphor to show the ways in which the mind (portrayed as a body) is

compelled to move in certain ways. In the reason is a force metaphor, the force is

external to the mind and acts on it in ways that the mind/body cannot control, which is

“why we can be ‘compelled by the facts’” (Lakoff & Johnson 1999, 215; authors’

emphasis). In the category formed from the data of the present study, the mind is a force

itself, and rational thinking is harnessing the force, while in the reason is a force

metaphor the direction of causality runs in the opposite direction; the force (reason)

controls the person.

The mind can also be seen a source of energy, particularly as a flame and/or

combustible material in Goleman’s (1995, 43) assertion that “empathy kindles altruism.”

In this example the mind is seen as a flame or source of light. One’s ability to use one’s

mind well is equated with the brightness of that light in Herrnstein & Murray’s (1996,

254) reference to “brighter young people.” This example illustrates the epistemological

metaphor quality of thinking is the brightness of a light.

Also of note is the closeness and even overlap of the mind is a source of energy

category and the mind is a body with sensory capabilities when the actions of lighting an

object bring implications for being able to see it. For example, an example that I have

coded as a mind is a body metaphor for its implication that seeing is understanding also
45
fits within the mind is a source of energy category. Both interpretations are necessary to

apprehend the full meaning of Gardner’s (1983, 22) claim that work in “information

processing psychology” is the cause of the “illumination of” certain aspects of thinking.

In this example I consider the particular subfield within psychology as a product of the

mind as a direct result of thinking—it is a domain of knowledge, or collection of thoughts

that were created by minds. Furthermore, I interpret this subfield of psychology also as a

metaphor for light due to the “illumination” reference. The statement implies that now

that the certain aspects of thinking have been illuminated by this body of work, we can

now see, or understand them, which necessitates the mind is a body with sensory

capabilities metaphor.

There is also an example that shows the overlap between this category and the

mind is a theatrical performance and the mind is a body with sensory capabilities

metaphors. Pinker (1997, 140) refers to the spotlight, an element of theater that is used to

draw the audience’s attention to a particular area of the stage, in the course of describing

aspects of thinking: “The next noteworthy feature of conscious access is the spotlight of

attention.” In this metaphor, the mind is not only a theatrical production, but it is also a

source of energy in which thinking is shining a light on something, which is contingent

upon the mind is a body that has sensory capacities, understanding is seeing metaphor,

since the relevant effect of shining a light on something is that we are able see it. It is

also important to note that the data have suggested that this category is distinct from the

mind is a body, understanding is seeing metaphor in that the mind is the source of light or

energy in these examples, rather than just being able to detect light. This distinction

between two different metaphors for the mind is lacking in the current literature. For
46
example, many authors use examples that portray the mind as generating light or energy

to support their claim that understanding is associated with vision, but do not comment

on the layered meaning of such interpretations—the dual role of the mind as a generator

of light as well as the eye that can see because of the light (e.g., Danesi 2004, Sweetser

1990, Lakoff & Johnson 1999).

Patterns that Span the Categories:

Some patterns in the data appeared across the various categories. The authors

tended to use many types of metaphors, regardless of their particular views of the human

mind. Each author in the study used metaphors from five to nine of the twelve major

categories of metaphors for the mind. The two most popular metaphors for the mind

(categories 1 and 2, see Table 1) were used by all 16 authors in the pages sampled, and

the third and fourth most popular were used by 15 authors.

Also, I found that most of the major categories contain some metaphors that

portray thinking as an active phenomenon, and others that portray it as relatively passive.

The exceptions are four categories that are completely comprised by active

epistemological metaphors in these data: the mind is a person of a certain occupation, the

mind is a territory, the mind is a theatrical performance, and the mind is a force or

source of energy.10 Using the example active and passive metaphors for thinking (see

Appendix F) as a guide, I found that the authors in this study used anywhere from a

roughly even ratio of active to passive metaphors to a much higher proportion of active to

10
The mind is a force or source of energy has only active metaphors for conscious thinking, but exhibited a
passive metaphor for subconscious thinking, a topic that is slightly beyond the scope of this paper. The
purpose of this study is to identify and organize metaphors for the mind, emphasizing conscious thought
processes, in order to pave the way for planning research that will inform learning situations.
47
passive metaphors for thinking. However, there weren’t any trends in this usage

according to their views on intelligence or thinking skills. I share Jäkel’s (1995, 221)

concern that many metaphors for the mind unfortunately reduce the mind to “a mere

passive role” in thinking. Given that many different metaphors for the mind are used in

educational contexts, future studies might explore whether active versus passive

metaphors (either across categories or within the same category) evoke different attitudes

or behaviors in learning situations, as I mention in the discussion section below.

While examining the data, I was struck by the frequency with which the selected

authors used several metaphors in concert to create different layers of meaning within the

same sentence. We, the readers, must make sense of the text by understanding each of

the implications for each metaphoric reference, even though these metaphors often

belong to disparate categories of metaphors for the mind. I also noticed that the

complexity of a few layers of meaning are often not even noticeable, since an average

native speaker of English would likely be able to make full sense of the given statement

immediately, despite the number of different types of metaphors I had identified within

the statement. An example of this is when Gardner (1983, 253) says that for those who

subscribe to a well known “point of view” in social psychology, certain “notions…tend to

take a back seat….” In this construction, the phrase “point of view” indicates that the

mind is a body with the ability to see, and in the second part of the statement, another

metaphor is used in which ideas or “notions” are personified using a mind is a gathering

of people, thoughts are people who interact metaphor. Furthermore, these notions are

people who are able to move, and their mobility is expressed using an action that in

current Western societies implies a relinquishment of power or reduced agency, as those


48
in the “back seat” are neither the driver nor the navigator of a vehicle—they’re along for

the ride.

In the above example, we must make sense of a few different categories of

metaphors and how they build upon each other in order to determine the intended

meaning of the statement, in which notions do not literally take a back seat, but they exert

less influence within our minds than other ideas. Not only are we able to navigate such

complicated webs of metaphor in these sorts of everyday statements, but the use of

multiple metaphors in a single sentence was quite common in these data. A great number

of the examples presented in the findings section are pared down to such a short phrase

that only one or two metaphors are invoked (for some quotes, I have refrained from

commenting on metaphors that are included to provide context but are not relevant to the

category that the quote exemplifies). However, it is important to note that these phrases

were often strung together in complex ways so that one metaphor would reference

another, and both would reference a third, and so on. The ways in which metaphors

interact with each other to build meaning within common modes of communication

would be a promising area for future study.

V. Conclusions and Discussion

In the Findings section I note a number of different ways in which some keywords

and phrases can be interpreted as belonging to different categories, as well as the ways in

which the categories suggested by these data overlap with metaphors that have already

been identified in the cognitive linguistics literature. For example, while describing the

mind is a body/thinking is grasping an object metaphor, I have noted the ways in which a
49
very general metaphor from the existing literature, thinking is manipulating objects with

the hands, overlaps with several of the more specific categories presented in this paper.

Knowing which categories a metaphor belongs to is useful for extending the metaphor

along a number of different paths in order to trace out some of the likely associations that

it might conjure in the listener. It also allows one to create extended metaphors that may

be assembled in a way that emphasizes the most useful imagery for guiding the

understanding of a listener for pedagogical purposes (for an example of how one study

has evaluated how different extended metaphors shape student understanding, see

Gentner & Gentner 1983).

One of the ways the present study may be furthered to address educational

concerns is to look more deeply at the mind is a collector of objects, thinking is sorting or

organizing objects metaphor. As I mention earlier, this metaphor aligns closely with the

educational topic called transfer of learning, where the knowledge learned in a specific

context is abstracted enough that the learner can apply it to solve problems more broadly,

even in situations that may be dissimilar. The concern among educational researchers is

that transfer of learning doesn’t happen nearly as often as we would like it to. It might be

useful to educators to elaborate on the metaphor thinking is exchanging objects, and to

explore ways in which the transfer of knowledge might be assisted or facilitated. Some

scholars have already presented ways to facilitate transfer using other sets of metaphors.

Salomon and Perkins (1989, 118) have primarily used a thinking is a journey metaphor to

describe the “high-road” versus “low-road” to transfer, and Perkins and Salomon (1988,

28) have used the mind is a construction worker, thinking is building structures metaphor

to speak of transfer in terms of “bridging” learning. Lave (1988, 24) has argued that the
50
abstract idea of transfer should be thought of in terms of knowledge being a “tool.”

Some questions that might guide the elaboration of transfer using the thinking is sorting

or organizing objects metaphor might be made even more specific and memorable by

thinking of knowledge and intellectual skills as tools, so that we would be organizing

tools for future use: How might we prepare ourselves for transfer of learning if we think

of our specific lesson as being a type of tool that we must sort into different bins that

represent situations where it might be useful? What bins would we put it in, and what

other types of knowledge-tools are already in those bins to use with it? These sorts of

discussions of thinking strategies may help to illuminate metacognitive strategies and

increase the inclination for using them.

The mind is a force or source of energy metaphor also deserves further

investigation. Although it was not used as frequently as many of the metaphors for the

mind in these data, the implications that the mind is an independent (albeit inanimate)

source of power is a strong metaphor for the mind in terms of its ability to bring about

change.11 Most of the other metaphors for the mind that highlight its possibilities for

agency do so in ways that personify the mind itself or its use, including: the mind is a

body, the mind is a person of a certain occupation, the mind is a tool (to be used by a

human). A promising question to ask that is pertinent to issues of moral responsibility

might be: In what ways, if at all, does the portrayal of the mind as a non-human source of

power absolve it of the consequences of its actions?

Now that a number of commonly used metaphors for the mind have been briefly

characterized and assembled in one place, a promising next step from the point of view of

11
When we use this metaphor, we portray thought as a direct causation of the mind; Lakoff and Johnson
(1980, 70) explain that one of the common attributes of how we understand direct causation is by using a
metaphor in which the “agent is the energy source.”
51
an educational researcher is to choose some of these metaphors and analyze the ways in

which they might be used to promote good attitudes toward thinking, as well as ways in

which they may reinforce habits of thinking that have been found to be detrimental

toward learning, either in specific contexts or subject areas, or more generally. It is likely

that each of the metaphors presented here are complex enough that they can be elaborated

on (or, in some cases, even used casually in conversation) in ways that help learners to

conceptualize and manage their thinking. Unfortunately, some of the metaphors

presented here may also be found to discourage the learner’s active involvement in their

own learning in certain types of situations.

For example, Carol Dweck (2000, 2006) has conducted many studies that all point

toward the same conclusion: people tend to favor one of two attitudes toward what mind

is. Either one’s mind is an unchanging entity, and therefore one’s intelligence is fixed for

life, or one’s mind is something that can work and strategize to make one’s intelligence

grow. In study after study, Dweck and her colleagues have found that whichever attitude

a person holds more strongly will guide that person’s behaviors in learning and problem

solving, and that one of these mindsets is more advantageous than the other in many

respects. She and her colleagues (Dweck 2000, 2006) have found that those who have

the growth mindset will persist in trying to solve challenging problems, will be more

likely to bounce back from setbacks, and will even be more likely to seek challenging

situations in the future. The researchers were even able to temporarily engender certain

mindsets in participants (and the accompanying behavioral tendencies) by giving them

reading material that supported theories of innate intelligence or of ways in which people

have enhanced their mental performance. In an even more subtle test of how everyday
52
communications can affect learning situations, Dweck and her colleagues were able to at

least temporarily induce a particular mindset by simply praising either the students’

efforts and strategies (for the growth mindset) or innate intelligence level (for the fixed

mindset). The studies on mindset that Dweck and her colleagues have conducted over

the course of decades have shown that it is clear that the conceptions we have of our

minds—specifically whether we favor a metaphor in which our minds remain unchanged

through use or are able to grow—affect not only how we approach learning and problem

solving, but, in the most challenging situations, can even affect our persistence and

overall achievement.

Future research could be informed by both the existing body of work on mindset

and the findings presented here in a number of ways. I offer a few provocative research

questions that could be addressed in future studies. In what ways do the metaphors

characterized in this paper reflect a growth mindset, and in what ways might they be used

to support a fixed view of intelligence? How might they be used in everyday interactions

with children, or in formal instructional settings, to encourage a growth mindset? In

what ways, if at all, might active metaphors for the mind engender or support the growth

mindset? Conversely, in what ways might keywords and phrases that evoke passive

metaphors for the mind engender or support the fixed mindset? In order to determine

how the subtle metaphors we use to represent our minds might be used to build on the

existing research on mindset to engender useful attitudes toward thinking and enhance

thinking skills, I plan to ask questions of this type in my own future research.
53
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57
Appendix A: Structural Metaphor Cues12

THE MIND IS A CONTAINER13

The following linguistic expressions exemplify cues for the structural metaphor THE
MIND IS A CONTAINER, THOUGHTS ARE OBJECTS (to be collected and stored):
• Thoughts “in” my head
• A brain or mind “full” of knowledge
• it’s “in the back of my mind”

THE MIND IS A BODY14

The following linguistic expressions exemplify cues for the structural metaphor THE
MIND IS A BODY:
A: Thinking is perceiving/seeing
• “Ah, now I see.”
• “I just couldn’t see the answer.”
• “she found the answer”
• “the answer was hiding in plain sight”
• “that answer doesn’t feel right”
• “that answer doesn’t sound right”
• “something in his story smelled fishy”

12
I created this appendix (excerpted from DeVito 2006) in order to illustrate the ways in which keywords
and phrases in everyday pragmatic uses of language converge to suggest structural metaphors. The
examples in this appendix were invented by the author for communicative purposes; they are not excerpted
from the data used in this study.
13
Lakoff and Johnson (1999) introduced the mind is a container metaphor.
14
The general metaphor mind is a body was introduced by Sweetser (1990). Lakoff and Johnson (1999)
also introduced the thinking is perceiving, mind is a body in motion, and acquiring ideas is eating
metaphors.
58
B: Thinking is eating
• “food for thought”
• “consuming” ideas or idea “consumption”
• “I had to sit and let it digest for a while.”
C: Thinking is a body in motion (going on a journey)
• “when I get stuck”
• “and then I got lost”
• “I took the wrong path” or “I kept going in circles”
• “I finally arrived at the right answer.”

THE MIND IS A TOOL15

The following linguistic expressions exemplify cues for the structural metaphor THE
MIND IS A TOOL, THOUGHTS ARE OBJECTS (to be manipulated):
A. Thinking is performing a skill or craft
• “when I applied my mind to the problem…”
• “I hammered out a solution”
B. Thinking is creating something new or tinkering with ideas
• “I made it up…”
• “I experimented with the idea…”
C. Mind is a Computer
• references to “processing” information

15
The mind is a tool metaphor is my interpretation of the mental activity is manipulation metaphor
developed by Jäkel (1995), based on Lakoff and Johnson’s (1999) thinking is object manipulation metaphor
and the more specific mind is a computer metaphor (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson 1999).
59
THE MIND IS A GATHERING OF PEOPLE16

The following linguistic expressions exemplify cues for the structural metaphor THE
MIND IS A GATHERING OF PEOPLE, THOUGHTS ARE OBJECTS OR SIGNS (to
be exchanged)
A. thoughts are communications with others
• “I’d like to consult a different source….”
• “I tell myself….”
• “getting that result told me I should do ___ next”
• “then I asked myself….”
• “I can tell that I’m not learning when….” or “when that happens, it tells me that
I’m not learning”
• “that’s what the data is telling me”
• “I talk it out in my head”
B. thoughts are objects to be exchanged17
• “share your thoughts”
• “gave me the idea”

16
Added to these metaphors is the mind is a gathering of people, paired with the epistemological metaphor
thoughts are objects or signs to be exchanged, metaphors that I propose from my own observations of how
people talk about their learning and from the existence of corollary metaphors, such as ideas are
commodities (Gibbs, 1994). [Note that evidence from the current study has confirmed the existence of this
category, which was originally presented as a hypothesis prior to commencing the study.]
17
This epistemological metaphor is also synergistic with the mind is a container metaphor, because uses
for these objects beyond possession by the recipient are often not implied. This indicates that the thoughts
are merely being collected by the recipient, which overlaps with the epistemological metaphor associated
with the mind is a container metaphor: thoughts are objects to be collected and stored.
60
Appendix B: Data Collection

Part I: Criteria for Source Selection

First, sources included in the study must be major works in the field in book

format. That criterion was established to ensure that the data would come from literature

that may have been influential in shaping the ways in which we talk about the mind. An

added benefit was that I would not be reading the very technical jargon found in journals,

where the complexity of syntax and highly specialized vocabularies would likely cause a

non-specialist such as me to both misinterpret and miss entirely a number of metaphors.

This criterion also excludes edited volumes that are comprised of chapters written by

different authors—these volumes not only change authorship (and therefore language

use) from chapter to chapter, but they also often contain specialist jargon. Book length

sources written collaboratively throughout (i.e., where chapters are not distinct to certain

authors) were candidates for inclusion in the study.

Secondly, the sources must have been originally published in English. That way,

I did not have to worry about the ways in which translators may have changed the subtle

uses of metaphor that had been expressed by the authors.

Thirdly, all sources included must have been either published or republished

within the past forty years. Books that have seen their first publication in this time frame

are part of the most current (albeit extended) wave of theories about intelligence and

thinking skills. Books that have been republished during this period have been very

influential in the field for several decades, not only shaping the more modern theories

(either by providing a foundation for them or to provide a point of departure for

reactionary theories), but have proved themselves to be so influential that they have been
61
considered to be still relevant during the current efforts to clarify and/or redefine

intelligence. Inclusion of a source that meets these criteria does not indicate an

endorsement of the theory, merely an acknowledgement that the theory is unique and/or

influential enough to warrant a closer look at the types of metaphors for the mind that its

proponents use.
62
Part II: List of Sources

A list of sources was developed using the following four strategies:

1. Searching books that synthesize the literature on intelligence and thinking


skills/abilities
2. Consulting scholars in the field
3. Searching syllabi from university survey courses on intelligence and thinking
skills
4. Consulting the bibliographies of relevant course textbooks

The following table lists the sources that were used in the study. Complete

bibliographic information for each source is given in the References.

Table 2: Table of major sources with optimal diversification of theories on


intelligence and thinking.
# Author Source Relevancy Theory type
1 Hans J. The structure This source describes a genetic
Eysenck and genetic view of intelligence
(with measurement of that was very influential in
contributions intelligence. its time, forms a foundation
from David (1979) for Herrnstein and
W. Fulker) Murray’s The Bell Curve.
It has an academic tone and
details different studies of
intelligence (mostly IQ).

2 Charles The Nature of This source may be genetic


Spearman Intelligence and redundant with other
the Principles of genetic views, it is one of
Cognition (1973 the foundational ones on
reprint of 1923 which others are based, and
edition) may have been more
influential in shaping how
we talk about the mind
(especially given the
number of decades it has
been in print).

3 Daniel Emotional This source emphasizes the affective


Goleman Intelligence affective domain’s role in
(1995) intelligent behavior.
63
# Author Source Relevancy Theory type
4 Howard Frames of Mind This source describes and multiple /
Gardner (Gardner 1983) argues for his influential multimodal
theory of multiple intelligences
intelligences.

5 David Perkins Outsmarting IQ: This source is a synthesis thinking skills/


The emerging work that also gives a lot multiple
science of of focus to reflective intelligences
learnable intelligence.
intelligence
(1995)

6 Robert Beyond IQ: A This source critiques IQ multiple


Sternberg Triarchic testing, develops an intelligences/
Theory of original three part theory of thinking skills
Intelligence intelligence.
(1985)

7 Richard J. The Bell Curve: This source offers an genetic


Herrnstein Intelligence and influential, contemporary
and Charles Class Structure genetic view of
Murray in American intelligence.
Life (1996)

8 Antonio Descartes' The author is a neuroscience


Damasio Error: Emotion, neurobiologist. The source
Reason, and the bases its argument on how
Human Brain the mind is not distinct
(1994) from the rest of the body in
a discussion of how
different centers in the
brain work in concert to
control emotion and
thought. Takes an
approach of studying
failures in the thinking
capacities of brain
damaged patients to
generate understandings of
how the brain works.
64

# Author Source Relevancy Theory type


9 Carol Dweck Self-theories: This author is a beliefs about
Their role in developmental intelligence /
motivation, psychologist whose achievement
personality and influential empirical
development. research has shown how
(2000) one’s implicit personal
theories of intelligence
affects one’s behavior in
learning and problem
solving situations.

10 Barbara Apprenticeship Situated cognition is a situated


Rogoff in Thinking: view of intelligence that cognition /
Cognitive emphasizes the cultural cultural
Development in environment in which one
Social Context is learning, and this is a
(1990) classic work by one of its
most influential authors.

11 Jean Lave Cognition in This is a work by another situated


Practice : Mind, influential author in the cognition /
Mathematics area of situated cognition cultural
and Culture in who posits that learning is
Everyday Life a social activity, not just in
(1988) the head. The entire
context is taken into
account, so this may also
count as a source based on
theories of distributed
cognition.

12 Steven Pinker How the Mind This source emphasizes computational


Works (1997) the computational aspects (includes some
of human thinking. neuroscience)

13 Stephen Jay The Mismeasure Gould wrote the critique of


Gould of Man (1996) Mismeasure of Man in genetic—
critique of the IQ industry intelligence
(a hegemony—self theories through
serving to those who are history
in power), and the revised
edition (1996) includes a
critique of The Bell
Curve.
65
# Author Source Relevancy Theory type
14 J. P. Guilford The Nature of This author claims that multiple
Human intelligence is
Intelligence multifaceted—it is three
(1967) dimensional (Operations,
Products, and
Material/Content), and has
120 categories.

15 Joseph Synaptic Self: Synaptic Self focuses on neuroscience,


LeDoux How our Brains the nature/nurture focus on
Become Who contributions to our sense emotions,
We Are of self, especially to memory,
(2002) explain the development identity
of healthy minds in formation
contrast to mental illness
(sort of a cross between
neuroscience,
developmental psych and
abnormal psych). Merges
findings in cognitive
psychology with
neurology. Argues that
the synapses are the
biological basis for
memory.

16 Rudolf Visual Thinking Visual Thinking is a very fusion—


Arnheim (1969, influential book that perception as
republished in claims that perception is not distinct
2004) not a distinctly different from reasoning
process than the reasoning
that follows it, particularly
influential in psychology
and the visual arts.
66
Appendix C: Sampling Strategy

Selecting pages from the sources:

I selected 16 sources to create the above list, making sure that each major group

of theories was represented with at least one source. All else being equal, I surmise that

scholars from different backgrounds—and who hold very different ideas about what

intelligence is—are more likely to use different metaphors than those who subscribe to

the same theories. I randomly selected a page number from each successive group of

twenty pages, and then looked through these pages in each source to choose “suitable”

pages to use as data in the study. “Suitable” pages primarily include those that describe a

relevant theory about the mind or how it works. Introductions to the topics of

intelligence and thinking skills, summaries of the author’s work, histories of the

progression of different theories of intelligence, thought experiments, illustrative

examples, or a recounting of a relevant empirical study were also considered suitable

material for inclusion in the current study. Pages containing large amounts of quoted

material (somebody else’s language), or that devoted much space to diagrams were not

deemed suitable for the study.

I have included somewhat of a random factor to aid in the initial stage of selecting

pages from each source because I am very familiar with some of the sources (which also

happen to be the ones that I am most likely to agree with), and am very unfamiliar with

others. I wanted to keep myself from unconsciously selecting my favorite pages of the

works that I like and haphazardly selecting pages from the ones that I do not know as

well, because I don’t want to find more metaphors in the sources that I agree with simply

because I am better able to select pages that will likely be filled with interesting ones.
67
That would put the sources that espouse views of intelligence that I don’t favor at a

disadvantage in terms of their abilities to contribute to the body of metaphors to be

collected, even though it would not be my intention to do so. Using a random process to

narrow the number of pages to be inspected for possible inclusion from each source also

offers an efficient way to limit the time spent deciding which pages to include.
68
Appendix D: Guiding Questions for Coding Metaphors

While open coding the data I noticed a number of difficulties I was having in
determining what should be coded in the first place, and how I would apply codes. To
deal with these challenges, I found myself asking the following questions in order to
guide my application of codes:

A. Is it appropriate to include (code) in this study?


B. If so, how do I interpret it—what metaphor code do I give it, and for what
category of metaphor (mind, thinking, should I create a new category, etc.)?

These questions led to the following sub questions:


1. Is it a metaphor?
I would determine whether to interpret the keyword or phrase as literal or metaphoric
according to context, level of abstraction, degree of specificity for the image the
metaphor evoked, and what I would refer to as a common sense etymological
analysis.
a. Intentional uses of relevant metaphors by the author were included; these were
often extended metaphors that were elaborated upon by the author.
b. If the keyword or phrase that seemed to cue a structural metaphor could not be
interpreted literally and still make sense in its given context, it was determined to
be a metaphor.
c. In one problem area, some of the keywords have concrete definitions that would
need to be interpreted as metaphors to make sense in the given context, but these
same keywords also have one or more abstract definitions that may be interpreted
literally. An example is the term “conceive,” (Spearman 1973, 43) which has
several definitions, some that require a metaphoric interpretation given their
context (because the concrete definitions center on engendering a new life in a
biological sense), and some that offer an abstract, literal interpretation of this
keyword as an action the mind can do. In this case, “conceive” was labeled as a
structural metaphor. This example can readily be interpreted as metaphoric while
also having alternate interpretations that are literal because they are abstracted
versions of the concrete (primary) definition. My informal observation is that in
these cases, the word was likely used metaphorically with such frequency that
additional entries would have been made in the dictionary definitions in order to
accommodate these frequent usages. This explanation is much like Danesi’s
(2004, 72) explanation of “root” metaphors, whose concrete meanings “are no
longer recognized…because they have become conventionalized through
protracted usage.” I did not look up every keyword in the dictionary in order to
make sure that additional interpretations were not included in the formal
definitions. I only looked up keywords when I thought it was likely that it had
abstract definitions that would render the use of the keyword literal. Whether or
not any particular usage of a keyword could be interpreted literally is largely
beside the point in this investigation, because several keywords converge to
identify a metaphor. In the case where a metaphor is identified using only one or
two keywords, I note it for the reader.
69
Even though it would help to build a strong case for my metaphor list to
restrict the coded data to keywords that can only be interpreted metaphorically
and not literally, this is an unrealistic option, especially given the quantity of
data I’m using in the study (it would involve looking up every possible
definition for every single keyword). I would also miss quite a few metaphors
simply because they have come into such common use that they have been
accounted for by entries in the dictionaries. There are the added issues of
determining which dictionary would be the definitive source, and whether I
should make sure the keyword doesn’t have a literal interpretation in countless
other dictionaries.
Another, more important reason not to use such a strategy is because it is
not in the spirit of the research; this is a qualitative study and I would be
automating the process too much to be able to treat each occurrence individually
in its own context, and with care. The purpose of this paper is not to argue
unequivocally that certain phrases can only be interpreted metaphorically. I
presuppose that people use metaphors quite often, sometimes without intending
to. In this paper I aim to identify as many commonly used metaphors for the
mind as possible in order to frame future research.
d. While I was not doing a formal etymological analysis, there were cases in which I
could clearly see that the roots of a keyword were metaphoric, and in cases where
I considered that this connection could be identified according to common
knowledge among adult native speakers of English, I opted for interpreting the
keyword as being metaphoric, even though it may also have abstract definitions
that could be interpreted literally in the context.
e. I found a large number of nonspecific metaphoric usages that revealed a general
schema rather than a specific metaphor. These may be very important (especially
if the schemas portraying the mind can be categorized along active and passive
lines), but these examples in the data did not give enough information to identify
a particular metaphor, so I treated these data differently from the structural
metaphors. The most common of these schemas was a “use” schema that implied
that one was actively using the mind, but in which the keywords did not conjure a
specific metaphor, such as the mind is a tool. For example, when Gardner (1983,
61) refers to the “use of sensory systems” as “another obvious candidate for a
human intelligence,” he calls upon a general “use” schema to show a way in
which the mind is used, but his articulation does not call to mind a specific
metaphor. Therefore, the keywords and phrases that indicated general schemas
were not given the status of a metaphor; and they did not contribute to the
classification of metaphor categories.

2. Is the metaphor for the mind or thinking, or something else of relevance?


Other topics that were considered relevant enough to include in the coding:
• the abilities of the mind (metaphoric references to artificial intelligence that
didn’t make direct comparisons to human thinking were ultimately culled out)
• thinking dispositions, including habits and attitudes
• emotions (I take the approach that cognition and emotions cannot be
separated.)
70
• challenges/problems in thinking
• aggregated knowledge, including collections of thoughts, often from more
than one mind, such as theories and knowledge in a disciplinary field (I take a
distributed cognition approach on this.)

3. Where is the boundary between what goes on in the mind and the “real”
world?
Because I take the position that we cannot fully separate our conceptions of the
world from the world itself, there were a number of gray areas where it was not
clear whether the metaphors I had identified referred primarily to the domain of
the mind, and should therefore be included in the study. I developed the
following guiding questions to negotiate the subtleties for determining which
metaphors referred to relatively direct representations of, or human actions in, the
concrete world, and which metaphors primarily referred to the mind’s
interpretation of the world. I sketch the specific questions and choices below.

Table 3: Guiding questions to delineate the domain of the mind from the
concrete world for making coding choices.
Guiding Answer: Coding choice:
Question:
Is it a metaphor A. It is primarily a metaphor for Do not code; do not
for communication across minds. include in the study.
communication,
for thinking, or B. It is primarily a metaphor for Apply the relevant
for aspects of thinking (within only one person’s code(s); include in
communication mind), or is a metaphor for the study.
that induce communication but emphasizes the
thinking? thinking that is induced in the
recipient.
Is it a metaphor A. It is primarily a metaphor for the Apply the relevant
for a representation of an object in the code(s); include in
representation of mind. the study.
an object in the
mind, or for the B. It is primarily a metaphor for the Do not code; do not
real object itself? object in the real world. include in the study.
Is this A. This particular personification of Do not code; do not
personification of the mind also can be interpreted as include in the study.
the mind actually referring to the whole person that the
referring to the mind belongs to.
person who the
mind belongs to, B. This particular personification of Apply the relevant
or just to the the mind refers to the mind and not code(s); include in
mind? also to the person to whom the mind the study.
belongs.
71
Appendix E: Order of Analyses in Addressing the Research Questions

While I had originally planned to collect references to the mind from the existing

literature first, I found it much more useful to get a broad feeling for the state of the

literature by familiarizing myself with relevant sources, paying particular attention to the

metaphors that have been well elaborated and thoroughly exemplified. I then conducted

analyses of my data, keeping the previously well-elaborated metaphors in mind, but

primarily focusing on open coding the data to build grounded theory of metaphors that

are used by scholars of intelligence and thinking skills. Having grouped my data into

meaningful categories that have been suggested by the use of concrete keywords that

acquire a certain metaphoric significance according to the context in which they were

used, I then returned to the existing literature a second time not only to verify similarities

and differences among the well known metaphors, but also to see how the authors of

these previous studies referred to other metaphors in passing. By paying attention to how

the cognitive linguists referred to additional metaphors for the mind and thinking that

were not the focus of their own studies, I was able to discern some promising alternative

groupings of metaphors to the ones that were generated by my study. In answer to

Research Questions 1 and 3, I offer commentary on the ways in which the categorization

of metaphors in the current study differ from the aspects of the metaphors that have been

highlighted in other studies.


72
Appendix F: Active and Passive Epistemological Metaphors

Table 4: Metaphor categories and example active and passive metaphors.


Category: Active metaphor Passive metaphor
The mind is a…
1. Body • Thinking is going on a • Thinking is perceiving
(that can move, journey (while the sense of touch
or with sensory • Thinking is using one’s may be a relatively active
capabilities) muscles sensory metaphor,* seeing
• Thinking is grasping an and hearing are more
object receptive and less actively
initiated)
2. gathering of • Thinking is exchanging • Thoughts are people who
people objects are related to one another
• Thinking is engaging in • Thinking is receiving an
battle object or communication
3. Person (of a • Thinking is performing • None
certain occupational tasks or duties
occupation)
4. container or • Thinking is collecting, • Thinking is storing objects
collector of sorting or organizing objects
objects
5. tool • Thinking is using a tool • Thinking is operating
(collection of machinery (relatively
tools, machine passive; it automates
or computer) thinking rather than
stressing skills or alternate
options)*
6. image maker • Thinking is creating an • Thinking is reflecting an
(projector, image image
artist, or shiny • Thinking is projecting an
surface) image (although this is less
active than creating an
image)*
7. structure • Thinking is supporting the • Thoughts are buildings
structure (thoughts are with a foundation that is
support parts of the structure) either sound or unsound
8. plant • Thinking is producing fruit • Bodies of thought are
• roots are the causes of mental branches
attributes (less active, but
roots are generally taken as
an active part that performs
functions essential to keep
the plant healthy and alive)*
73

Table 4, continued: Metaphor categories and example active and passive


metaphors.
Category: Active metaphor Passive metaphor
The mind is a…
9. territory • Thinking is establishing the • None
boundaries of a domain
• Metacognition is exploring a
territory
10. body of water • Thinking is navigating or • Thoughts are substances
exploring a body of water (i.e., water—but,
depending on what one
does with the water, this
metaphor could be more
active)*
11. theatrical • Thinking is putting on a • None
performance performance (playing a role,
engaging in production tasks
behind the scenes)
12. force or source • Thinking is using or • Subconscious thinking is
of energy controlling a force being acted upon by a
• Thinking is shedding light force (this is a negative
on an object version of the conscious
thinking metaphor)
*Some metaphors were not definitively active or passive, so they were coded as neutral.