Open Access

Dynamic feelings about metaphors for genes: Implications for research and genetic policy

Genomics, Society and Policy20095:44

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-5-3-44

Published: 15 December 2009


People respond to metaphors as much with regard to the emotions that they generate as to their referential, comparative contents. Interviews with non-geneticists about preferred metaphors for gene-environment interaction that illustrate this tendency are reported. These interviews also reveal the dynamic tendency of such emotional responses. A second set of interviews shows that lay people may preferentially use a metaphor of "virus" or "disease" for talking about genes, as opposed to the coding metaphors transmitted through the mass media and reportedly preferred by geneticists. An explanation based on the differently situated emotions of these groups is proposed. It is proposed that the prominence of emotions in responding to genetics indicates the importance of incorporating analyses of emotions instead of simple principles into policy formulation about genetics.