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Image schema is a recurring structure of, or within, our cognitive processes, which establishes patterns of understanding and reasoning. Image schemas emerge from our bodily interactions, linguistic experience and historical context. The term is explained in Mark Johnson's book The Body in the Mind, in case study 2 of George Lakoff's Women, Fire and Dangerous Things and by Rudolf Arnheim in Visual Thinking.

In contemporary cognitive linguistics, an image schema is considered an embodied prelinguistic structure of experience that motivates conceptual metaphor mappings. Evidence for image schemas is drawn from a number of related disciplines, including work on cross-modal cognition in psychology, from spatial cognition in both linguistics and psychology, and from neuroscience.

See also:


  • Lakoff, George (2006) Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226468046.
  • Rohrer, Tim (2006) 'Image Schemata in the Brain', in Beate Hampe & Joe Grady (eds.) From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Online version (PDF) — A recent book chapter which explores the evidence from cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science for the neural underpinnings of image schemas
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