Evaluating the Influence of Metaphor in News on Foreign-Policy Support

Kathleen Ahrens, Christian Burgers, Yin Zhong


Metaphors are often used for presenting government policy to the general public in news, but the degree to which metaphors affect evaluation of such policies is not well understood. We conducted three between-subjects experiments (Nexperiment-1 = 331; Nexperiment-2 = 301; Nexperiment-3 = 608), in which participants read news items about foreign policies. News items contained either (a) novel metaphors, (b) conventional metaphors, or (c) literal controls. Results demonstrated that novel metaphors increased cognitive text perceptions, which led participants to evaluate proposed policies more favorably in a longer passage (Experiment 1) but not in a shorter passage with a larger percentage of metaphors (Experiments 2 and 3). By contrast, Experiments 2 and 3 showed a sequential indirect effect of novel metaphors (vs. controls) through perceived novelty and affective text perceptions on policy support. These results demonstrate that novel metaphors are helpful to readers processing texts about new topics as they draw attention to the language with their novelty, but remain familiar enough to generate positive affect.


political communication, metaphor, cognitive text perception, affective text perception, foreign policy

Full Text: