If You Want Positive Results, Don't Call It A 'War' On Cancer

Dec 29, 2014

University of Michigan study shows bellicose metaphors are a detriment to treating cancer.

It is common to hear people describe dealing with cancer as a war. Using this type of metaphor, however, could have negative consequences in treatment. A new University of Michigan study says the use of war metaphors limits some preventative behaviors.

David J. Hauser, a doctoral candidate in social psychology, says this limitation is because individuals in a fight want to actively engage or attack the adversary, rather than limit their own behaviors. Considering it a war can also leave people believing they are done with the disease. Hauser feels that different metaphor might be more appropriate. Hauser states "people who have these sort of journey metaphors for their experience, might see cancer as a place where they no longer want to go." This change in thinking could promote more adherence to treatment plans.

Hauser thinks the more people know about cancer, the more they will see the war metaphor doesn't work.

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