Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology

 cannons aimed at "metaphor" and "narrative"

Warring with Words:
Narrative and Metaphor in Domestic and International Politics

Saturday, March 24, 2012
8:45 AM to 4:30 PM; Reception to follow

In recent years, scholars from a range of disciplines have examined the speeches and writings of political leaders around the world to identify the ways in which each employs stories and metaphors to recruit supporters, justify past actions, frame policies for the future, and negotiate with others. In addition, scholars have come to acknowledge that in their own analysis, theory, and commentary they, too, are incorrigible users of narrative and metaphor. This symposium brings together specialists in social psychology, political science, cognitive science, linguistics, literary studies, gender studies, and philosophy to identify the many ways in which narrative and metaphor function in discourse around politics. We shall be asking some of the following questions:

Is it true that much communal and international hostility is generated, at least in part, by the fact that opposing groups hold to conflicting religious and historical narratives?

Does each culture depend on a distinct cluster of metaphors for viewing the world?

To what extent are domestic and international policies shaped by the metaphors employed to frame the problems they are designed to resolve?

How effectively are the candidates in the upcoming US elections wielding stories and metaphors as campaigning weapons?

How may dysfunctional political narratives and metaphors be critiqued and effectively amended?

To what extent do political theorists depend on metaphor and political historians on narrative to conceptualize their fields and articulate their findings?

The annual Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology will bring an international cast of prominent researchers to address these and other important questions.

Official Schedule:

Continental breakfast/registration: 8:00 to 8:45 AM

Opening remarks: Dr. William Crano. 8:45 – 9:00

Morning presentations: 9:00 – 12:25

  • Prof. Michael Hanne. 9:00 – 9:30. “Narrative and Metaphor in Politics: An Overview”
  • Dr. Chiara Bottici. 9:30 – 10:05. “The Politics of the Past: The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations”
  • Dr. Michael Marks. 10:10 – 10:45. “Metaphors of International Cooperation”
  • Morning Break. 10:50 – 11:05.
  • Dr. Annick Wibben: 11:05 – 11:40. “When Feminists Narrate Security…”
  • Dr. Jeffery Mio. 11:45 – 12:20. “Metaphor and Politics: Support for the Metaphor Extension Hypothesis”

Lunch 12:25 – 1:45

Afternoon presentations: 1:45 – 4:00

  • Dr. Phillip Hammack. 1:45 – 2:20. “The Political Psychology of Narrative”
  • Dr.  Matt Bonham. 2:25 – 3:00. “President Obama Talks about the Arab Spring: Narrative and Metaphor”
  • Afternoon Break. 3:05 – 3:20
  • 3:20 – 3:55. “A Roundtable with Benjamin Bergen, Matt Bonham, Michael Marks and Jeffery Mio”

Concluding remarks: Dr. William Crano. 4:00 – 4:30.

Wine and cheese reception: 4:30 – 6:00

Benjamin Bergen, University of California-San Diego
A Roundtable with Benjamin Bergen, Matt Bonham, Michael Marks and Jeffery Mio

An agency of the US intelligence community, IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) recently launched a project to develop software that would analyze large chunks of text in such languages as Farsi, Russian, English and Arabic to identify and evaluate metaphors in terms of their ability to reveal underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture. The study of metaphor is intended to offer strategic opportunities for improved intelligence, in contributing to understanding the perceptions and motivations of political agents in other countries. The symposium’s metaphor specialists will lead a discussion of the psychological, cultural and political assumptions behind this project, of the technical challenges it offers, and its practical implications.

Matt Bonham, Syracuse University
President Obama Talks about the Arab Spring: Narrative and Metaphor

In this paper I situate President Obama’s figurative language about the Muslim World in a larger context, the narrative of his approach to the Islamic world, including his “basic semantic integrators.” My analysis will show that two of these semantic integrators, THE NEW POLITICS OF OBAMA, and DIFFERENCE WITH BUSH POLITICS, are clearly reflected in his use of metaphor about the Muslim World. I also discuss the challenges that President Obama faces with respect to the ARAB SPRING, where he is attempting to deliver a clear message to multiple audiences who do not share his own cultural, political, and religious traditions. When President Obama gave his address in Cairo on June 4, 2009, he was talking to the Muslim World, but he also had to keep in mind American and European audiences, who see the world differently because of their own cultural, political, and religious traditions. President Bush ignored this challenge, and as a consequence, found that his message confused audiences in the Islamic World and strengthened the rhetorical position of those who opposed his policies. The Arab Spring, a “season of hope,” has handed President Obama the occasion to talk to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as his domestic audiences in the United States, using the same language and articulating similar values. This occasion has also enabled him to return to a NEW BEGINNING in the Islamic World and resume A JOURNEY.

Chiara Bottici, The New School
The Politics of the Past: The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations

Is there any difference between myth and memory? If it is true that the historian is a “turned- back prophet”, as some have claimed, what is the difference between mythical and historical narratives? This paper argues that there is a conceptual difference between mythical and historical narratives, but that the two tend to converge in the contemporary conditions of a global society of the spectacle. After discussing the concept of political myth and the way in which it differs from that of historical narrative, I will try to show how they overlap by focusing on the narrative of the clash of civilizations and its influence on the commemoration of 9/11.

Phillip Hammack, University of California-Santa Cruz
The Political Psychology of Narrative

In this paper, I posit three premises of a political psychology of narrative, anchoring them in the theoretical and empirical literature across social science disciplines that study war and conflict. First, I suggest that our interests are understood through the politics of identity—our engagement with the rhetoric of social categories and its matrix of power relations—and that this engagement guides political behavior. Second, I suggest that our “mentalities”—or “views, goals, and pictures of the world” (Berlin, 1976)—are psychologically organized as narratives and that, to the extent that those narratives call for coherence, they also guide political behavior beyond our narrative of identity. Finally, I argue that the narrative development of identity and mentality occurs through the individual’s mediated experience of the political world, including through rituals, conversations, media consumption, the law, and engagement with the political rhetoric of leaders. I conclude with a discussion of the implication of these premises for social action in the interest of achieving peace, social justice, and political inclusion and recognition, drawing on field research with Israeli and Palestinian youth.

Michael Hanne, University of Auckland
Narrative and Metaphor in Politics: An Overview

The intense interest shown by researchers over recent years in the uses of narrative and metaphor in political theory and practice must be seen against the background of an explosion of scholarly work in narrative studies and metaphor studies across a wide range of disciplines, from education to environmental studies, and from law to medicine. In this introductory talk I aim to outline the broad claims made by interdisciplinary narrative and metaphor scholars and to identify some of the major applications of these claims to the political field. I shall point out that, vigorous and productive though narrative research and metaphor research in politics has been, there is an urgent need for greater integration of the two perspectives.

Michael Marks, Willamette University
Metaphors of International Cooperation

Metaphors are ubiquitous in the study of international relations. Since metaphors are inherent to human communication their use in theoretical endeavors is unavoidable. In international relations theory, metaphors are integral to how core topics are conceptualized, researched, and analyzed. This paper explores the role of metaphors in the study of international cooperation. The paper focuses on two broad areas of international cooperation, regime theory and European integration. Central in the study of these concepts is the metaphor of “governance.” With regards to regime theory, the paper analyzes the regime concept itself as well as ancillary metaphors such as issue “linkage,” “nested” regimes, and policy “networks” within regimes. In the area of European integration the paper examines metaphorical concepts including “spillover,” “side payments,” and “multi-level” governance. In many ways, these metaphors provide the narrative by which analysis of international cooperation is communicated.

Jeffery Mio, Cal Poly Pomona
Metaphor and Politics: Support for the Metaphor Extension Hypothesis

Petty and Cacciopo (1986) identified two routes of persuasion: the central route and the peripheral route. According to their theory, the central route involves logical arguments for a proposition in order to convince an audience of the correctness of this proposition, whereas the peripheral route involves emotional and/or irrational arguments for a proposition. Chaiken and Stangor (1987) suggested that metaphors have the power to combine the central and peripheral routes. In the past, we have proposed the metaphor extension hypothesis (Mio, 1996). This hypothesis suggests that in the context of political debates, when one opponent uses a metaphor, his or her opponent would be more effective in convincing an observing audience by extending the metaphor and using this extension against the opponent. The present study found evidence supporting the metaphor extension hypothesis when research participants were asked to generate responses to an opponent who uses metaphorical expressions when trying to convince an audience of the correctness of his/her position.

Annick Wibben, University of San Francisco
When Feminists Narrate Security…

Narrative, if only temporarily, arrests meaning. If one scrutinizes the meaning of any concept, one cannot fail to note that it is only within a certain context or tradition that meaning can be produced. That is, the framing of events in narrative is fundamental to developing a response to them. The way traditional security narratives, used by governments to generate extraordinary measures in defense of the state, frame events makes it almost impossible to think differently of security – such as from the perspective of variously located women where multiple allegiances lead to intersecting and mutually reinforcing insecurities (cf. Wibben 2011). These security narratives, then, limit how we can think security, whose security matters, and how it might be achieved. This paper argues that a feminist, interdisciplinary approach to issues of peace, war, and security – and a focus on personal narrative – is crucial to rethinking what security can mean in the midst of intersecting oppressions and global transformations. What is more, it shows how a feminist narrative approach can be employed to do so.

Jeffery Mio, Cal Poly Pomona

Jeffery Scott Mio is a professor in the Psychology and Sociology Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he also serves as the Director of the M.S. in Psychology Program. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 1984. He taught at California State University, Fullerton, in the Counseling Department from 1984–86, then taught at Washington State University in the Department of Psychology from 1986–94, before accepting his current position at Cal Poly Pomona. He was president of Division 45, The Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, of the American Psychological Association from 2002–2003 and was the president of the Western Psychological Association from 2010–2011. His interests are in the teaching of multicultural issues, the development of allies, and how metaphors are used in political persuasion. He has published a number of books, including an undergraduate textbook on multicultural psychology, now in its third edition by Oxford Publishers. He is on the Editorial Boards of Metaphor and Symbol, Journal of Asian American Psychology, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, where he also serves as the book editor.

Michael Hanne, University of Auckland

Mike Hanne founded the Comparative Literature Program at the University of Auckland in 1995 and directed it until 2010. His research over recent years has focused on narrative and metaphor as instruments by which human beings make sense of the world and shape their actions. He has explored the role of narrative and metaphor in the construction of a wide range of disciplines. In late 2010, he convened a symposium in the Program for the Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, entitled “Binocular Vision: Narrative and Metaphor in Medicine.” The papers and creative material from that symposium were published as a special issue of the journal Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, 44:3 (Fall 2011). His earlier publications in the field include The Power of the Story: Fiction and Political Change, Providence and Oxford: Berghahn, 1994; ‘Getting to Know the Neighbours: When Plot Meets Knot,’ Canadian Journal of Comparative Literature 26:1 (1999): 35-50; and ‘Metaphors for Illness in Contemporary Media,’ Medical Humanities 33 (December 2007): 93-99. In late 2013 or early 2014, he will be convening a symposium in New Zealand on ‘Narrative and Metaphor in Education.’

William Crano, Claremont Graduate University

Dr. William Crano is Professor of Psychology. His basic research is concerned with social influence, especially the impact of minorities on the beliefs and actions of the majority, and on the effects of self-interest on attitudes and actions. His applied research is concerned with the development of persuasive and instructional information to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to prevent drug abuse, in children and adolescents. He is a fellow of the APA and APS, has been a NATO Senior Scientist, a Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, and a liaison scientist in the behavioral sciences for the Office of Naval Research, London. He also has served as the Chair of the Executive Committee for the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and as Director of the Program in Social Psychology at NSF. He is on the editorial boards of Human Communication Research and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and previously served on the boards of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, and the International Journal of Group Tensions. Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development fund his research.

Location and Registration

We are proud to offer attendance for the Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology at the following rates:

  • Students: $25
  • Professionals and Academics: $50
  • Licensed psychologists seeking Continuing Education Units: $75
  • Free to Claremont Colleges faculty, students, and staff (must register in advance by emailing

The symposium will take place at:

The Pickford Auditorium
Bauer Center
Claremont McKenna College
500 E. 9th Street
Claremont CA 91711

Claremont Graduate University is located off of the I-10 Freeway, around 30 miles east of Los Angeles, CA.

For more information, e-mail Richard Dowlat, External Affairs Coordinator for the Division of Behavioral and Organizational Science in the School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation at or call (909) 607-9013.

*We will be applying for 6.5 hours of continuing education units from the MCEP Accrediting Agency. Approval of these units is pending.