The Brain is a Metaphor Machine

There is an impressive amount of metaphor in our thought processes. We tend to store things like spheres, to take a simple example, in proximity. We can think of a big wheel of gouda when we look at the moon, or we can compare the sun to a red rubber ball. If memory is stored by circuits that resonate with certain aspects of the input data, metaphor might be a natural consequence of the storage scheme. Metaphor, in other words, may help us to visualize our own inner workings.

Our very language promotes the resonance theory. This is hardly good evidence, but it is suggestive. When something makes sense to us, we say it resonates. When we remember something, we say it rings a bell. When we communicate well, we say we’re on the same wavelength. Perhaps, on some unconscious level, we recognize our own mechanisms of thought?


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