Using Texture Metaphors To Activate Additional Parts of the Brain

Craig Van Korlaar —  July 5, 2012

Everyone who communicates for a living knows that word choice is incredibly important. Yet a recent brain scan study from Emory University (Atlanta, GA) has revealed that it is not always what word you use but how you use it in its context.

The study focused on “texture metaphors”, that is phrases with a word associated with texture that is used in a comparative or figurative manner. Scientists discovered that textural metaphors stimulated additional parts of the brain associated with touch (the somatosensory cortex) even when we don’t think of them as such.

In other words, a “rough” day doesn’t conjure up surfaces like sandpaper or gravel but our minds still make the connection.

Abstract concepts in general and metaphors in particular are grounded in our sensory motor experience, and therefore we also get activity in the sensory parts of the brain or the motor parts of the brain as might be relevant for the concept at hand.
- Krish Sathian, Professor of Neurology at Emory University

Using these textural phrases in your church communications are a good way to (1) make your message more memorable and (2) prime your audience to experience its context in a fresher way.

Avoid Dead & Confusing Metaphors

These textural phrases work in our most common metaphors and even while we aren’t consciously aware of them. However, this does not mean all texture metaphors are created equal.

In some cases, metaphors take on a life of their own and drift from their original meaning. For example, the phrase to “toe the line”, is commonly misspelled as “tow the line” because many writers don’t understand the original context.

Some also believe that metaphors often have a life cycle beginning with novelty and then fading over time. So consider using a thesaurus to help discover less-common metaphors that are still relevant and make sense.

Getting Started with Using Texture Metaphors

Whenever relevant, start adding in texture-based adjectives and adverbs into your communication. Examples include:

bitter, brisk, bristly, bumpy, callous, chapped, choppy, clammy, coarse, creamy, doughy, elastic, feathery, firm, flimsy, fuzzy, gelatinous, glazed, grainy, greasy, icy, jagged, knobby, knotty, mushy, pitted, polished, pulpy, rocky, rough, satiny, sharp, silken, smooth, soapy, soggy, spongy, stiff, stinging. stony, tangled, turbulent, velvety, waxy

Just don’t go overboard or try too hard. Keep it subtle and gradually work on speaking in a more textural way. Practice usually makes perfect.

However, some aren’t wired to be a phenomenal speaker. And while 1 Timothy 1 calls overseers to be “able to teach”, we also know that God has a long history of using people who stutter, lack eloquence, and are not spectacular in mans’ eyes.

(via  Neuromarketing)

Craig Van Korlaar

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Craig is founder of TopNonprofits.com, a curation of best practices from the world's leading nonprofits. His skills were honed as a decorated sergeant and enlisted aerial navigator for the U.S. Marine Corps and nurtured through his work at public schools, the YMCA, and Food for the Hungry. Most recently, Craig has served as operations director at Phoenix's New City Church, co-founder of SoChurch communications software, and a key player in laying the groundwork for OpenChurch.com. Craig spent much of his formative years as a missionary's kid in Kenya and civil war-torn Zaire.

One response to Using Texture Metaphors To Activate Additional Parts of the Brain

  1. Great suggestions! Thx ~Lizette