Despite the first sentence– I don't think you can "literally" turn someone into a metaphor– this Wired piece is an interesting report from the frontiers of embodied cognition:
Sitting in a hard chair can literally turn someone into a hardass. Holding a heavy clipboard leads to weighty decisions. Rubbing rough surfaces makes us prickly. So found researchers studying the interaction between physical touch and social cognition.
The experiments included would-be car buyers who, when seated in a cushy chair, were less likely to drive a stiff bargain. The findings don’t just suggest tricks for salesman, but may illuminate how our brains develop.
“The way people understand the world is through physical experiences. The first sense they develop is touch,” said study co-author Josh Ackerman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. As they grow up, those physical experiences shape how people conceptualize abstract, social experience, he said. “Later on, you can do what we did — trigger different physical experiences, and produce changes in people’s thoughts.”
Published June 24 in Science, the study is the latest addition to a booming field of embodied cognition, which over the last decade has scientifically eroded the notion that mind and body are distinctly separate.
Other studies have shown that kids are better at math when using their hands while thinking. Actors recall lines more easily while moving. People tend towards generosity after holding a warm cup of coffee, and are more callous after holding a cold drink.
This is a subject I've touched on a couple times before– mainly in connection with the deleterious effects of sitting and other forms of physical inactivity— in connection with conference design. It seems to me that in the design of high-intensity, very creative, collaborative workshops, we need to learn how to either use these kinds of insights to our advantage, and/or learn how to design processes that account for the unconscious effects that our environment have on our thinking.