Metaphors in the mirror: The influence of teaching metaphors in a medical education programme

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Abstract

Medical students often face problems in using and understandingmetaphors when communicating with a patient or reading a scientific paper.These figures of speech constitute an interpretative problem and students needkey strategies to facilitate metaphor comprehension and disambiguation ofmeaning. This article examines how medical students’ strategies of metaphorcomprehension could be improved by specific teaching on metaphors using aCognitive Linguistics approach. Medical students’ ability to comprehend mirrorneuron metaphors was assessed comparing the performance of students who didnot receive any instruction about metaphoric extension strategies after a lessonon mirror neurons with the performance of students who received a speciallesson both on mirror neurons and on metaphoric extension strategies. Studentswho received specific teaching on metaphor comprehension strategies performedbetter (85 %) and were more likely to use analogical reasoning andcontextual clues than those who did not receive any specific teaching (55 %),who tended to adopt a violation strategy. Thus, their ability to give an exhaustivereinterpretation of metaphors seems to be affected by their ability to managemetaphoric extension strategies. These findings suggest that introducing aCognitive Linguistics approach and using metaphoric extension strategies toaid metaphor comprehension may be an active and productive teaching strategyin a medical education programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-206
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage Learning in Higher Education
Volume6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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