Challenging societal barriers: The power of metaphors and analogies in addressing stigma

By Alemu Tesfaye

Alemu Tesfaye (biography)

How can we overcome stigma, regardless of whether it’s associated with health conditions, socio-economic status, or individual identities? How can we use metaphors and analogies to convey how stigma hinders effective dialogue, intervention, and inclusion, contributing to a cycle of fear and misunderstanding, and discouraging affected individuals from seeking help or intervention due to fear of judgment, discrimination, or isolation?

Metaphors and analogies are powerful cognitive tools that shape our understanding and perception of the world around us. We employ both in our everyday language and thought processes, often without realizing it, and they heavily influence how we interpret new experiences and information. They allow us to create meaning, understand complex concepts, and connect with others in more profound ways.

In my work, I have developed the following metaphors and analogies for grasping the silent battles of individuals with two neglected tropical diseases – podoconiosis and scabies – as a vital first stride towards tearing down the wall of stigma, neglect, and discrimination that surrounds these conditions.

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Tool-swapping in interdisciplinary research – a case study

By Lindell Bromham

Lindell Bromham’s biography

What can we learn from focussing on examples of interdisciplinary research where ideas or techniques from one field are imported to solve problems in another field? This may be in the context of interdisciplinary teams, or it may simply involve borrowing from one field to another by researchers embedded within a particular field. One of the major benefits of interdisciplinary research is the chance to swap tools between fields, to save having to reinvent the wheel.

The fields of evolutionary biology and language evolution have been swapping ideas and tools for over 150 years, so considering the way that ideas have flowed between these fields might provide an interesting case study.

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Harnessing analogies for creativity and problem solving

By Christian Schunn

Christian Schunn (biography)

What is an analogy? How can analogies be used to work productively across disciplines in teams?

We know from the pioneering work of Kevin Dunbar (1995), in studying molecular biology labs, that analogies were a key factor in why multidisciplinary labs were much more successful than labs composed of many researchers from the same backgrounds. What is it about analogies that assists multi- and interdisciplinary work?

The advice that follows comes from a decade of research involving intensive analyses of hundreds of hours of interdisciplinary science and engineering teams, following the minute-by-minute processes of the teams, and using advanced statistical techniques to look for robust patterns in behavior over time and across teams. In general, our research has shown that creative teams generate twice as many ideas per unit time when they use analogies than when they do not.

So, what is an analogy?

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