Metaphor Framing in Media Texts and Communication about Depression: Findings of Content Analysis and Experiment

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Ivan A. Aslanov

graduate of the Faculty of Social Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia


Section: Sociology of Journalism

The article presents the results of the analysis of metaphor models used in federal mass media for the period of December 1, 2018 – December 1, 2019 to describe depression. Based on content analysis, the author argues that journalists most often refer to such source domains as ‘spatial bottom’ and ‘enemy’. In an experimental study (a survey involving 544 healthy people of different ages) it was tested whether these metaphors trigger the framing effect. The ‘swamp’ metaphor, as a sub-variety of the ‘spatial bottom’ metaphor, was shown to change the perceptions of depression, reinforcing the belief that depression needs to be treated and that psychotherapy can help in this regard. This metaphor also reduced the average penalty respondents would impose on an employee for not working because of depression. However, these effects were found in the group of respondents of 18– 35 years old (N=330). A different effect was observed in the group of respondents over 35 years old (N=214), with both ‘enemy’ and ‘swamp’ metaphors: they affected only the assessments of whether medication is helpful for depression reducing the average score. Thus, the author concluded that the metaphors used by journalists to communicate about mental disorders affect the audience’s judgments of these phenomena and that the effect depends not only on the semantics of the metaphor but also on the demographic characteristics of the audience (e.g., age).

Keywords: framing effect, cognitive metaphor, depression, media effects
DOI: 10.30547/vestnik.journ.6.2020.322


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