Resistance to metaphor in science communication.

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Findings in academic papers are often not understandable to the general public. Consequently, academic papers do not fall within the spectrum of articles that people read on a daily basis. Metaphors can help to bridge this gap and offer the needed ‘translation’, since they allow to make texts more comprehensible by making abstract concepts more concrete. In addition, metaphors have been shown to have persuasive power. Metaphors being a persuasive tool, the use of them may cause resistance among readers. However, this resistance has not been touched upon to date. The current study added to the existent literature by addressing the subject of resistance to metaphors in communication about vaccination. Whether a metaphor is commonly used or not, and the context in which the metaphor is used (describing a familiar or unfamiliar disease) might influence the degree to which metaphors are being resisted to. Therefore, the present study investigated whether people resist more to text with conventional metaphors than with novel metaphors or no metaphors, whether resistance is higher towards metaphors used to describe unfamiliar diseases than familiar diseases, and to what extent there is an interaction effect between the type of metaphor used and the familiarity of the disease on the levels of resistance displayed by the readers. 187 participants read a text after which their motivated resistance to persuasion was determined by means of several questions. No support was found for the two hypotheses. Nevertheless, an interaction effect showed higher levels of resistance towards the unknown disease than towards the well-known disease when no metaphor was used. Further, in case of the conventional metaphor, people resisted more towards the well-known disease than towards the unknown disease. The results add to the theory of reduced counterarguments by adding the topic of resistance and form the basis for further academic inquiry.
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