Keynote Speaker for Metaphor/Mediator Panel

prof. dr. Christian Burgers (VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam)

Keynote Title:
The Persuasive Power of Figurative Frames in Political Discourse

Figurative language types like metaphor, hyperbole and irony are important in constructing public discourse, on topics like the European Union (Musolff, 2017), economic policy (Burgers & Ahrens, 2020) and technological innovation (Campbell & LaPastina, 2010). For instance, in the 2019 Dutch Provincial Elections, the VVD party used a metaphoric scenario comparing the Netherlands to a fragile vase, and the VVD as its protector as a key campaign frame ( Similarly, in the 2016 Elections, Donald Trumps used the ‘’drain the swamp’’ metaphor to frame (a part of) his political agenda (Burgers, Jong Tjien Fa & de Graaf, 2019). A key question in the metaphor literature focuses on the persuasive power of such figurative frames: when and how do figurative frames impact their audience?

This presentation will give an overview of empirical research on the persuasiveness of metaphor and irony (e.g., through political satire) in political discourse. Various studies from our lab demonstrate that the persuasiveness of figurative frames depends on a variety of factors such as (a) the specific frames investigated, (b) the baseline measure against which figurative frames are compared, (c) the persuasion variable investigated, (d) participant characteristics, (e) elements of processing and (f) the specific communicative context.

Under some conditions, figurative frames can be powerful in persuading the audience of the speaker’s stance. However, in other situations, figurative frames exert a limited power on addressees. In some cases, figurative framing can even be less persuasive than its literal counterparts. This means that we need an indirect-effects approach to addressing the power of figurative frames: which figurative frames impact which addressees under which conditions?






Prof. dr. Christian Burgers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a Full Professor by special appointment in Strategic Communication (Logeion Chair) in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam.

His research focuses on the role of language in strategic communication, with a particular focus on figurative language such as metaphor, hyperbole and irony. He studies the use and effects of metaphor, hyperbole and irony across domains of discourse (e.g., organizational communication, political communication, interpersonal communication). Between 2014-2018, he worked on the project "Figurative Framing" (2014-2018), for which he received a VENI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Currently, he works on his VIDI project "Contemporary Political Satire" (2018-2024). For more information on the VIDI project, please view the project website:

Prof. dr. Christian Burgers is a member of the Management Team of the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam in which he coordinates the track on Figurative Framing, and main editor of the book series Metaphor in Language, Cognition and Communication (MiLCC), published by John Benjamins. He also has a regular Dutch-language column in C Magazine, in which he writes about communication research for an audience of communication professionals.