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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

How Metaphors Transform Simple Words Into Complex Concepts

Greg McFall/ONMS,
Yes, there are other fish in the sea. But metaphors let us use them to communicate more fundamental truths about our human condition.

Ever have those moments when you just can’t find the right words to express your thoughts? They happen. Articulation isn’t always easy.

Sometimes, words or language alone can't accurately express the complexity of thought. At those times, it can be very helpful to use an analogy or a metaphor to illustrate the fullness of the concept being expressed. Analogies and metaphors allow us to communicate complex concepts or ideas that transcend simple words. 

If you have a desire to develop good analogies or metaphors, the Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, have some tips that will blow your mind – metaphorically speaking. 

Consider common analogies or metaphors with fish. "There are plenty of fish in the sea." "He was a fish out of water." "He’s fishing for information."

Yes, there are plenty of fish in the actual sea, but that phrase is usually intended to communicate an abundance of new romantic opportunities to a person who is experiencing feelings of romantic disappointment. Was he literally a fish out of water? Probably not, but that phrase figuratively demonstrates the emotional experience of feeling out of place. And no one can literally go fishing for information, but our knowledge of actual fishing offers an illustration of the concept at hand – a line of questioning meant to reach an objective or satisfy an agenda.

Metaphors and analogies are more than a turn of phrase – they offer useful cognitive abilities. The idea is that you should always try to look beneath the surface in life. What lies beneath?

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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