Research Archive

Metaphors and the Market: Consequences and Preconditions of Agent and Object Metaphors in Stock Market Commentary

Michael Morris, Oliver Sheldon, Daniel Ames, Maia Young

Publication type: Journal article

Research Archive Topic: Capital Markets and Investments, Organizations


We investigated two types of metaphors in stock market commentary. Agent metaphors describe price trajectories as volitional actions, whereas object metaphors describe them as movements of inanimate objects. Study 1 examined the consequences of commentators? metaphors for their investor audience. Agent metaphors, compared with object metaphors and non-metaphoric descriptions, caused investors to expect price trend continuance. The remaining studies examined preconditions, the features of a price trend that evoke agent vs. object metaphors. We hypothesized that the rate of agentic metaphors would depend on the trend direction (upday vs. downday) and steadiness (steady vs. unsteady). Two archival studies tracked the metaphoric content in end-of-day CNBC commentary as a function of daily price trajectories. As predicted, agent metaphors occurred more frequently on updays than downdays and especially so when the trends were relatively steady as opposed to unsteady. This held for both bull (Study 2) and bear market periods (Study 3). Study 4 replicated these findings in a laboratory experiment where participants took the role of stock market commentator.
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Morris, Michael, Oliver Sheldon, Daniel Ames, and Maia Young. "Metaphors and the Market: Consequences and Preconditions of Agent and Object Metaphors in Stock Market Commentary." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 102 (2007): 174-92.

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