On the road

The metaphor of the journey has often been used by writers, philosophers and leaders alike to inspire audiences and motivate collective action. Recent results published by the American Psychological Association demonstrate that  visualising goals as destinations on physical paths does indeed significantly increase the impact of the message and the chances of reaching the goals.

The authors studied the effect of different visual metaphors on students’ engagement and academic success. Students that were asked to visualise their academic career as a road or a path, using a goal-as-journey metaphor, reported stronger motivation and displayed increased effort, compared to students exposed to different visuals. This motivating effect persisted in time and was reflected in better final exam performance. Even more interesting, visualising an active journey, like cycling, was more effective than a passive one, like a travelling by train. This seems to suggest that visualising active participation is a key factor in self motivation and success.

These results make a strong empirical case that using the visual metaphor of a journey has a significant impact on motivation. Colleges should continue to include journey-metaphoric framings in their orientation materials. Sports teams, health communicators, and corporations could similarly employ journey-framed communications to encourage goal-directed action.

Read more on metaphors.






Photo credit Wendell@2013