First Advisor

David L. Ritchie

Date of Publication

Summer 10-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Communication






Metaphor, Frames (Sociology), Obesity -- Public opinion



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 70 pages)


The study of metaphor has moved from abstraction and poetics into the realms of cognitive science and cultural studies. Rather than being seen as purely figurative and secondary to literal meaning, investigation of metaphors reveals a close relationship to our processes of reasoning, a capacity to both reveal and cover, and a plasticity that forms within surrounding cultural values. I reviewed current metaphor theory, including its concerns and justifications, and designed a simple survey experiment through the Qualtrix webpage. The survey was distributed via the Amazon Mechanical TURK system. The experiment, in two different versions, briefly described obesity and then asked participants to describe their attitudes toward, and preferred solutions for, this emerging public health issue. The paragraphs differed only in the metaphor used to describe obesity. Based upon a metaphorical framing hypothesis, it was predicted that obesity as an "infectious epidemic" would bias readers towards societal causes and a preference for public policy changes, while obesity as "simple calorie math" would bias readers towards individualized causes, and less support for public policy changes.

The hypotheses of the study were not supported; there was no significant difference in participant responses between frame conditions. Possible reasons for non-significant results include the survey format, unique aspects of obesity as a public health problem, and participants' level of media exposure to obesity. However, this study could be easily altered into various iterations to confirm or deny many aspects of brief metaphorical framing.


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