Grantee: Mark J. Landau

Mark J. Landau

Mark J. Landau

Social Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Kansas - Lawrence

Dr. Landau's research focuses on the role that metaphor plays in everyday thought and behavior. He draws on theoretical perspectives positing that metaphor, traditionally dismissed as a linguistic ornament, is in fact a cognitive mechanism that people routinely use to understand and experience abstract concepts in terms that are more concrete and easier to grasp.

The broad goal of the current project is to apply these perspectives to understand the psychological processes by which communication strategies persuade recipients to engage in cancer-prevention behaviors (e.g., applying sun-safe products). Cancer-related health messages are especially effective at motiving prevention behaviors when they increase recipients' concern that cancer threatens their well-being and strengthen confidence in the efficacy of the recommended behavior. Extant communication strategies may fall short of their full potential because they portray cancer risk and prevention practices in ways that are abstract and difficult for recipients to visualize concretely.

Along with researchers Jamie Arndt and Linda Cameron, Dr. Landau proposed that communication strategies that utilize metaphor to compare cancer and its relation to prevention practices to relatively more concrete ideas would be uniquely effective at producing the optimally motivating interaction of cancer worry and prevention efficacy cognitions, and hence more likely to spur recipients to engage in the recommended behavior. The project consists of a series of five experimental studies that test the effectiveness of metaphoric cancer messages with regard to skin, lung, and colon cancer prevention. The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce cancer rates by providing translational suggestions for more effective interventions.

I'm continually fascinated by the notion that metaphor operates at a conceptual (not just linguistic) level to shape thinking, feeling, and behavior, and it's time to apply that notion to understand how people conceive of cancer and their power to reduce their risk.”

Selected Grants

Project Title Grant Number Program Director
Cognitive and Emotional Processes of Metaphoric Cancer Communications 1R01CA185378-01 Rebecca Ferrer