Forceville, Charles, Paul Hekkert, and Ed Tan (2006). “The adaptive value of metaphors.” In: Uta Klein, Katja Mellmann, Steffanie Metzger (Eds.): Heuristiken der Literaturwissenschaft. Einladung zu disziplinexternen Perspektiven auf Literatur, 85-109. Paderborn: Mentis.
Abstract: In this article we speculate that the human ability to metaphorize has adaptive value. Our argument runs as follows: Darwinian survival requires adaptation; adaptation requires learning; and learning crucially involves metaphorizing. To metaphorize is to map the meaning, emotions and/or attitudes associated with one, more or less familiar, conceptual domain (the source) onto another, more or less unfamiliar, conceptual domain (the target). Metaphors have survival value because they are economical and allow for the development of new perspectives. Since pleasure facilitates learning, we hypothesize that the aesthetic attractiveness of metaphors increases with the degree to which they obey the principle of minimum means for maximum effect. After showing that there is a continuum from entrenched or embodied metaphors to creative ones, we discuss our claims with reference to six case studies from the realm of advertising, design, and art.