Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 255–257 | Cite as

The Machine Days Are Over: Medicine Metaphors and the Psychiatric Resident

  • Daniel Shalev
Feature: Perspective

Metaphors, defined by linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson as “a way of conceiving of one thing in terms of another” for the purpose of understanding, are pervasive in medicine [1]. At any given time, doctors and patients alike may be walking slow roads, fighting uphill battles, falling behind, eking miraculous victories, and so forth without having literally walked, fought, fallen, or won. Given the challenging concepts we contend with in medicine—physiology, intangible disease processes, and life and death—it is not surprising that we use metaphor to capture meaning that confounds expression.

Scholarship from fields including cognitive neuroscience, psychology, literature, and philosophy has demonstrated that metaphor shapes social thought and attitude in ways that affect behavior [2, 3]. Bioethicist Douglas Diekema provides the example of commuters connoting their driving with racing and consequently driving more aggressively and less safely [4]. This effect is particularly...


Compliance with Ethical Standards


The author states that there is no conflict of interest.


This work is not funded.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia University Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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