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Metaphorical framing in political discourse through words vs. concepts: a meta-analysis



Conceptual metaphor theory and other important theories in metaphor research are often experimentally tested by studying the effects of metaphorical frames on individuals’ reasoning. Metaphorical frames can be identified by at least two levels of analysis: words vs. concepts. Previous overviews of metaphorical-framing effects have mostly focused on metaphorical framing through words (metaphorical-words frames) rather than through concepts (metaphorical-concepts frames). This means that these overviews included only experimental studies that looked at variations in individual words instead of at the broader logic of messages. For this reason, we conducted a meta-analysis (k = 91, N = 34,783) to compare the persuasive impact of both types of metaphorical frames. Given that patterns of metaphor usage differ across discourse domains, and that effects may differ across modalities and discourse domains, we focused on one mode of presentation and one discourse domain only: verbal metaphorical framing in political discourse. Results showed that, compared to non-metaphorical frames, both metaphorical-words and metaphorical-concepts frames positively influenced beliefs and attitudes. Yet, these effects were larger for metaphorical-concepts frames. We therefore argue that future research should more explicitly describe and justify which level of analysis is chosen to examine the nature and effects of metaphorical framing.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Britta C. Brugman, Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:


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The research in this paper was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, grant 276-45-005. We would like to thank Ellen Droog for serving as the second coder in this study; Brad Bushman for assistance with the meta-analysis procedures; Aaron Ashley, Mark Brunson, Michael Cobb, Chao-yo Cheng, Dennis Chong, Adam Corner, Claes de Vreese, Stephen Flusberg, Timothy Fung, Gang (Kevin) Han, Todd Hartman, Willem Joris, Nathan Kalmoe, Luuk Lagerwerf, Oliver Lauenstein, Neil Malhotra, Julien Perrez, Ray Pingree, Penny Sheets Thibaut, Craig Stewart, and Sander van der Linden for kindly answering our questions about their papers and/or providing us with detailed statistics.



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Metaphorical framing in political discourse through words vs. concepts: a meta-analysis



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