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12 NOVEMBER 2014

Metaphors as Problem-solving Aids

"Metaphors facilitate the understanding of an unfamiliar situation in terms of a known situation (Ortony, 1991). By means of metaphors, it is possible to make reference to what is clearly understood in order to elucidate the unknown. Basically, metaphors constitute an uncommon juxtaposition of the familiar and the unusual. They induce the discovery of innovative associations that broaden the human capacity for interpretation (Lakoff, 1987, 1993). For that reason, metaphors are seen as valuable aids in problem–solving tasks.

The relevance of metaphors to problem–solving is pertinent to three fundamental steps (Gentner, Bowdle, Wolff, & Boronat, 2001). The first step consists of extracting a variety of unfamiliar concepts from remote domains, where possible relationships with the problem at hand are not always evident. The second step involves establishing a mapping of deep or high–level relationships between the metaphorical concept and the problem. Correspondences are identified by means of abstractions and generalizations. Relationships of secondary importance are discarded, and only structural correspondences between the metaphorical source and the problem are set up. The last step deals with transferring and applying structural correspondences associated with the metaphorical source to the problem at hand, which at the end generally leads to a novel solution."

(Hernan Pablo Casakin, 2007)

Hernan Pablo Casakin (2007). "Metaphors in Design Problem Solving: Implications for Creativity." International Journal of Design 1(2).



abstraction and generalisationaid to understanding • analogous correspondence • Andrew Ortony • Brian Bowdle • Consuelo Boronat • Dedre Gentner • George Lakoff • innovative associations • International Journal of Design • metaphorical concept • metaphorical representation • metaphorical source • novel solution • Phillip Wolff • problem abstraction • problem at hand • problem-solving • problem-solving aids • remote domains • structural correspondences • theory buildingthinking tools • uncommon juxtaposition • unfamiliar concepts • unifying metaphorunifying strategyvisual punvisual rhetoric


Simon Perkins

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