Exploring Metaphor’s Communicative Effects in Reasoning on Vaccination

Frontiers in Psychology 13 (1027733.):1-15 (2022)
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Introduction: The paper investigates the impact of the use of metaphors in reasoning tasks concerning vaccination, especially for defeasible reasoning cases. We assumed that both metaphor and defeasible reasoning can be relevant to let people understand vaccination as an important collective health phenomenon, by anticipating possible defeating conditions. Methods: We hypothesized that extended metaphor could improve both the argumentative and the communicative effects of the message. We designed an empirical study to test our main hypotheses: participants (N = 196, 78% females; Meanage = 27.97 years, SDage = 10.40) were presented with a text about vaccination, described in either literal or metaphorical terms, based on uncertain vs. safe reasoning scenarios. Results: The results of the study confirmed that defeasible reasoning is relevant for the communicative impact of a text and that an extended metaphor enhances the overall communicative effects of the message, in terms of understandability, persuasion, perceived safety, and feeling of control over the health situation, collective trust in expertise and uptake of experts' advice. However, the results show that this effect is significantly nuanced by the type of defeasible reasoning, especially in the case of participants' trust in expertise and commitment to experts' advice. Conclusion: Both communicative and defeasible reasoning competences are needed to enhance trust in immunization, with possible different outcomes at an individual and collective level.

Author Profiles

Francesca Ervas
Universita di Cagliari
Pietro Salis
Universita di Cagliari


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