Metaphorical Descriptions of Well-Doers

Abstract

What is a metaphoric picture of a “well-doer” made of? In a study devoted to the development of the ability to use metaphorical descriptions of humans, I tried to establish the semantic fields of four target metaphors: Human-Apple Tree, Human-Sun, Human-Cup, Human-Dolphin. Over 300 young adults (the exact number depending on the stimuli), both men and women aged 19-26, were asked to decipher the metaphors’ meanings. The results were obtained mainly by qualitative analysis, with frequency counts of clusters containing synonymous meanings. The results indicate that, while creating imaginary characteristics of ‘“kind humans,” young adults focus on three factors: benefactor provides help (which takes various, but consistent forms: he/she gives hope, an ear to listen to one’s problems, shares fruits of work, provides warmth and joy, etc.), benefactor’s mental stability (as opposed to sudden changes of mood, which is associated with weakness), benefactor’s skill of merging cheerfulness and tranquility. The semantic fields of stimuli addressed to kindness are more complex than the ones connected with evil. Goodness may be associated with wisdom, maturity, generosity, with both inactivity and vividness. Beauty seems to be less important than was expected. The results may serve for developmental comparisons.

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