George P. Lakoff (/ˈleɪkɒf/, born May 24, 1941) is an American cognitive linguist, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena.
The metaphor thesis, introduced in his 1980 book Metaphors We Live By has found applications in a number of academic disciplines and its application to politics, literature, philosophy and mathematics has led him into territory normally considered basic to political science. In the 1996 book Moral Politics, Lakoff described conservative voters as being influenced by the "strict father model" as a central metaphor for such a complex phenomenon as the state and liberal/progressive voters as being influenced by the "nurturant parent model" as the folk psychological metaphor for this complex phenomenon. According to him, an individual's experience and attitude towards sociopolitical issues is influenced by being framed in linguistic constructions. In Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf, he argues that the American involvement in the Gulf war was either obscured or was put a spin on, by the metaphors which were used by the first Bush administration to justify it. Between 2003 and 2008, Lakoff was involved with a progressive think tank, the now defunct Rockridge Institute. He is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundación IDEAS (IDEAS Foundation), Spain's Socialist Party's think tank.
The more general theory that elaborated his thesis is known as embodied mind. He is a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972.