Conceptual Blending Theory


Conceptual Integration Theory


Combining metaphors as a core process in learning and creativity

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … network of metaphorical blends
  • Knowing is … a web of associations
  • Learner is … a combiner (individual)
  • Learning is … blending
  • Teaching is … sequencing (experiences and metaphors)




Conceptual Blending Theory extends Conceptual Metaphor Theory in the suggestion that complex concepts and creative leaps typically involve blends of multiple metaphors. Such processes are seen as core aspects in human thought and language – pervasive, constant, and largely nonconscious. Once blends have been made, they become resilient and invisible for the knower. A ready example is the concept of “number” – which, for most adults, is understood as a seamless blend of count, size, rank, distance, location, and value. Typically, adults find it difficult to see these interpretations of number as different. By contrast, young learners may initially experience them as distinct and incompatible.


For the most part, criticisms around Conceptual Blending Theory have been more focused on attempts to apply the theory than on the theory itself. As just noted, those who have already mastered a blend can find it extremely difficult to unravel their intricate weaves of interpretation – and, consequently, can be highly resistant to suggestions that even “simple” concepts (e.g., “number”) can involve extensive networks of metaphors. In a different vein, some critics note that Conceptual Blending Theory provides little insight into the origins or inspirations of creativity, although it affords insight into the mechanics of creativity.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Gilles Fauconnier; Mark Turner

Status as a Theory of Learning

Conceptual Blending Theory is a theory of learning. Perhaps its most significant contribution has been as a means of elaborating Conceptual Metaphor Theorys explanations of the bodily basis meaning into a theory of how complex conceptual understandings can emerge.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Conceptual Blending Theory is not a theory of teaching. However, as an elaboration of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, it is proving influential in efforts to sequence experiences and interpretations that are woven into key concepts.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Along with Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Conceptual Blending Theory has been demonstrated as a robust scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Conceptual Blending Theory” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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