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Copyright (c) 2014 Wake Forest Law Review Association, Inc.
Wake Forest Law Review

THE LAW AS VIOLENCE: ESSAY: BLOODLETTING AND BEASTS: METAPHORS OF LEGAL VIOLENCE

Fall, 2014

Wake Forest Law Review

49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 727

Author

Sarah Higinbotham*

Excerpt



Research has shown that metaphors are how we make sense of the world. They influence how we think, what we buy, and even how we vote. 1 In order to understand the role that metaphors play in people's reasoning about crime, psychology professors Lera Boroditsky and Paul Thibodeau gave a fictional newspaper account to hundreds of readers, reporting that the city of "Addison" faced a dramatic surge in crime in 2004, with a 19% increase in reported crimes and a 52% increase in the murder rate. 2 The statistics, phrasing, and content of each story were identical, with a single word exception - the metaphor:
 

Crime is a [beast/virus] ravaging the city of Addison. Five years ago Addison was in good shape, with no obvious vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, in the past five years the city's defense systems have weakened, and the city has succumbed to crime. Today, there are more than 55,000 criminal incidents a year - up by more than 10,000 per year. There is a worry that if the city does not regain its strength soon, even more serious problems may start to develop. 3
 

Half of the participants read that "crime is a [beast] ravaging the city of Addison" and half read that "crime is a [virus] ravaging the city of Addison." 4 Regardless of their political party, 71% of those who read that "crime is a beast" opted for enforcement strategies to address crime. 5 That number ...
 
 
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