Metaphor Analysis in Psychology—Method, Theory, and Fields of Application

  • Karin S. Moser University of Zurich
Keywords: Metaphor analysis, analogy, cognitive linguistics, context-sensitivity, mental models, schemata, cognitive anthropology, distributed representation, tacit knowledge


The analysis of metaphors is a classical research theme in linguistics, but has received very little attention in psychological research so far. Metaphor analysis—as conceptualized in cognitive linguistics—is proposed here as a qualitative method for psychological research for several reasons. Metaphors are culturally and socially defined, yet they also represent a basic cognitive strategy of analogical problem solving. Metaphors are context-sensitive, yet at the same time they are abstract models of reality much in the same way as mental models and schemata in cognitive psychology. The multifaceted properties of metaphors allow for the study of micro-interactions between cognition and culture in open and qualitative research designs. They also enable the bridging of the gap between quantitative-experimental and qualitative approaches in psychology. Because metaphors are of high plausibility in everyday experience, metaphors are a valuable tool for interventions in applied fields of research such as organizational and work psychology. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0002212


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Author Biography

Karin S. Moser, University of Zurich
Karin S. MOSER, Dr. phil., is a senior research fellow at the University of Zurich in Social Psychology (Habilitationsstipendium), and a senior researcher at the Institute of Work Psychology at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. Current research projects are concerned with the role of language in action regulation and knowledge cooperation. Methods applied range from field research in industrial firms with both qualitative (interviews, observation, document analysis) and quantitative approaches (questionnaires) to laboratory experiments. Senior lecturer in research methodology and psychology at the Universities of Zurich and Bern, and the ETH Zurich. Research interests: language, action, automated action, mental models, tacit knowledge, knowledge cooperation, knowledge management, self-concept, qualitative and quantitative research methodology, triangulation of methods, assessment of tacit knowledge, metaphor analysis.
How to Cite
Moser, K. S. (2000). Metaphor Analysis in Psychology—Method, Theory, and Fields of Application. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2).