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Personality through metaphor: Optimism, pessimism, locus of control, and sensation seeking

Abstract

In two experiments, several personality attributes evident in metaphors people use to describe everyday experiences were examined. Subjects either generated (Experiment 1) or endorsed (Experiment 2) a metaphor that represented their views about six facets of their lives (e.g., work, relationships, graduating). In self-generated metaphors, content analyses of the metaphors revealed that attributes of optimism (e.g., looking forward to the future) and pessimism (e.g., cynicism) were significant components of metaphor content. Also, modest relationships were found between the themes of optimism contained within their metaphors and scores on an optimism scale of a questionnaire designed to evaluate the optimistic and pessimistic orientations. In a second study, subjects endorsed how strongly preselected metaphors represented important aspects of their lives. These preferences were significantly related to their scores on an optimism/pessimism instrument and a locus of control inventory. These results support the notion that metaphors, like other creative productions, may prove a useful vehicle for studying personality characteristics. They also provide evidence for the construct validity of the optimism and pessimism questionnaire.

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McConnell, A.R., Bill, C.M., Dember, W.N. et al. Personality through metaphor: Optimism, pessimism, locus of control, and sensation seeking. Current Psychology 12, 195–215 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686802

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Keywords

  • Current Psychology
  • Sensation Seek
  • Descriptor Score
  • Pessimistic Explanatory Style
  • Defensive Pessimism