Can Words Breed or Kill Investment? Metaphors, Imagery, Affect and Investor Behaviour

Henriette Prast, José Sanders, Olga Leonhard

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In "building your portfolio", building is what linguists call a conceptual metaphor: the investor does not literally pile up his assets like they were bricks, but "building" is used as a metaphor for putting together elements. We could therefore also say "cooking", "sewing" or "weaving" your portfolio, as these are also activities that involve putting together elements to make your life comfortable. Conceptual metaphors make some aspects of the topic at hand salient, and hide others. Metaphors create imagery and induce affect. As the latter is shown to influence risk perception and return expectations, it is worthwhile to study metaphors in stock market reporting. In this paper we identify the metaphors in newspaper articles on the stock market both during a crash and in “normal” times. We find that both in the general and the financial
press journalists use many metaphors, that these come from a limited number of source domains, and that the latter are predominantly masculine, thus “priming” readers with certain aspects of investing. We speculate that this may create positive affect among men, not women, and bias masculine investors toward excess trading. If so, stock market reporting in newspapers could contribute to the gender difference in stated risk tolerance, financial risk taking, stock market participation and (excess) trading. We suggest further research to verify this.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2018

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • conceptual metaphors
  • imagery
  • affect
  • risk perception
  • gender


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