Mixing Memory

Mind Metaphors

i-bd28effee9cffb69afa9ae5822355d0d-computerbrain.jpgSome of you who are interested in the history of psychology or philosophy of mind might find this paper interesting:

Gentner, D., & Grudin, J. (1985). The evolution of mental metaphors in psychology: A 90-year retrospective. American Psychologist, 40(2), 181-192.


It seems plausible that the conception of the mind has evolved over the first hundred years of psychology in America. In this research, we studied this evolution by tracing changes in the kinds of metaphors used by psychologists to describe mental phenomena . A corpus of metaphors from 1894 to the present was collected and examined. The corpus consisted of all metaphors for mental phenomena used in the first issue of Psychological Review in each decade, beginning with the inception of the journal in 1894 and continuing with 1905, 1915, and so on through 1975. These nine issues yielded 265 mental metaphors, which were categorized according to the type of analogical domain from which the comparison was drawn.

The chief finding was that the nature of the mental metaphors. changed over time. Spatial metaphors and animate-being metaphors predominated in the early stages, then declined in favor of systems metaphors, often taken from mathematics and the physical sciences. A secondary finding was that the numbers of mental metaphors varied . Metaphors for mental phenomena were more prevalent in the early and late stages of the corpus than in the middle stages (1935 to 1955) . These patterns are interpreted in terms of conceptual evolution in psychologists’
models of the mind.

If you enjoy that, you might also enjoy this paper on memory metaphors in cognitive psychology. And if you’re interested in the history of science, these two papers on Johannes Kepler’s use of analogy (the second one’s a bit technical, but worth it) should be right up your alley.

Image from here.


  1. #1 peter jones
    May 18, 2007

    Thanks – an excellent reference and source:

    For a brief 21st century view on mind mapping vs a cognitive space (model) the post below may be of interest…?

    News exclusive: Mind mapper is visited by guardian angel of Hodges’ model


  2. #2 peter jones
    May 18, 2007

    You may find these link pages useful too..



    Scroll down a little!

  3. #3 anne
    June 5, 2007

    For those who can read French: a very interesting reflection on the cognitive function of metaphors in linguistics
    R. Landheer’s pdf article to be found here: http://www.info-metaphore.com.

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