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Psychology as Metaphor

Psychology as Metaphor

April 1994 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
The view that the study of rhetoric and metaphor is crucial to understanding psychological discourse is explored in this lucidly argued book. The author scrutinizes a wide range of traditional psychological theory including neuropsychology and memory, childhood development, the IQ debate, accounts of emotion and descriptions of the mind to show how rhetorical strategies and the deployment of metaphor are central to the work of creating a convincing theoretical account.

The book explores the distinction between philosophy and rhetoric and offers an interdisciplinary analysis of theories of metaphor and language while pointing to future directions for research. Its theoretical breadth is matched by its wide-ranging treatment of key thinkers from Darwin, James and Freud, through Watson, Lashley, Piaget, Vygotsky, Skinner and Burt to writers in contemporary psychology such as Kamin, Eysenck, Rumelhart and Shallice.

Metaphor, Rhetoric and Analysis
Memory After Lashley
Metaphors as Promissory Notes

Comparing Concepts of Development
Metaphor and Presupposition

Accounting for Emotion
Metaphor as System

The Theory of Metaphor
The Extension of Discourse

The Rhetoric of Validity in the IQ Debate
James and Freud on the Mind
Metaphor and Rhetoric as Enrolment

Describing Psychological Objects
Concluding Discussion


`The project of the book is to initiate an inquiry into the textual and rhetorical construction of psychology; therefore, the presentation is explicitly cast as a preliminary exploration of possible sites for further investigation. This exploration takes the form of a series of case studies examining familiar domains of the psychological literature: memory, development, emotion, IQ, mind... The observations made - particularly concerning the use of promissory notes, the attempts to create stable textual representations of objects claimed to be real and stable in the world, and the negotiation of the reader's attitude and distance toward material about which he or she has intimate experiences - are important and fresh observations within the rhetoric of science and articulate well with observations from other realms of science studies' - Theory & Psychology

`[This book] enlists readers in an extremely compelling project. Having once read it, readers will find it difficult to look at psychology in the same way again. The book makes explicit a number of half-concealed and semiconscious ways in which our writing about the discipline of psychology helps to establish it as a scientific practice. Soyland uses some classic and modern work in psychology as a basis for his claim that it can be understood as a rhetorical activity, and his thesis is itself an effective exercise in rhetoric, as witnessed by the fact that he has persuaded us of his claims.

`Psychology as Metaphor represents a contribution to a variety of strands of scholarship. It makes a significant contribution to the history of psychology and advances knowledge and debate in the field that has become known as "social studies of science". Moreover, it will be of interest to scholars of discourse analysis and rhetoric, too, as it progresses knowledge and techniques of application in these subdisciplines...

`Soyland provides many interesting examples, from studies of emotion, development, intelligence and the nature-nurture debate and much more... Part of being a psychologist is the almost automatic repackaging of social phenomena in terms of personality, intelligence, memory, developmental stages and so forth... Soyland's ideas are profoundly transgressive of these orthodoxies and are supported by particularly close and persuasive readings of the documents of the discipline... a cornucopia of analytic delights and invitations to extend our own thinking about psychology... there is much to recommend Psychology as Metaphor. In addition to the contributions it makes in its own right, it is useful as a teaching resource to encourage the more enquiring undergraduate to think afresh about psychology and as a kind of antidote to more conventional histories of the discipline. Soyland has also effectively opened up psychology to study from a perspective that sees facts as constructed rather than obvious things and that we hope will enable other scholars to take a similar perspective and to enhance our understanding of psychology' - Journal of Language and Social Psychology

`In the last few year there has been an important change [in psychology] and some social psychologists in Britain are finding their own path away from orthodoxy... In discourse analysis they have an energetic new paradigm, and no longer feel apologetic for not being in the laboratory... The present book is part of this movement. It is about the use of rhetoric by psychologists themselves in their writings, and Soyland shows convincingly the rhetorical use of promissory notes, enrollment and other devices, including the pervasiveness of metaphor which becomes "literal" only through familiarity, not - and this is central to the post-modern dogma - because it refers directly to reality. Being at the start of a new discipline, his aim is to develop categories, so his subtle analyses carry conviction through close reading of well chosen examples, rather than the application of classical rhetoric. He takes contrasting theories in psychology, of memory, development, emotion and IQ, and shows how debates are conducted through persuasive discourse. This is done with clarity and purpose... The development of a distinction between literal and metaphoral is important for the argument... It is very well done' - Sociology

`With scholarly insight and a deft sense of irony, John Soyland shows the importance of language in psychological theorizing. Time and again, he draws the reader's attention to an unnoticed phrase or metaphor and, suddenly, a whole theoretical perspective looks different. This is a book to be savoured' - Michael Billig, Loughborough University

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