On decision-making and framing

This essay is focused on political decision-making, specifically with regards to how the Obama campaign should frame McCain, but I find its arguments applicable in general:

But post-Palin, the Obama-Biden campaign seems to have become the Gore-Kerry-Hillary campaign. They are running on 18th Century theory of Enlightenment reason: If you just tell people the facts, they will follow their self-interest and reason to the right conclusion. What contemporary cognitive scientists have discovered (See my new book, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain), and what Republican marketers have known for decades, is that the Enlightenment theory of reason doesn’t describe how people actually work. People think primarily in terms of cultural narratives, stereotypes, frames, and metaphors. That is real reason.

For me, these insights offer a potential way through stubborn beliefs many hold regarding health, medicine and science. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the political successes of Republicans in the last couple of decades – and especially in the last eight years.

There’s more good stuff here:

Taxation is not an affliction. Tax cuts will not create jobs. These are facts, but stating them as we just did just reinforces conservative frames. The right framing for the truth must be available and used for the truth be heard.

If the truth doesn’t fit the existing frame, the frame will stay in place and the truth will dissipate.

It takes time and a lot of repetition for frames to become entrenched in the very synapses of people’s brains. Moreover, they have to fit together in an overall coherent way for them to make sense.

Effective framing on a single issue must be both right and sensible. That is, it must fit into a system of frames (to be sensible) and must fit one’s moral worldview (to be right).

(Thanks to homunculus.)

6 thoughts on “On decision-making and framing

  1. I have never heard of the concept of framing but I see the same principles daily in my job working with big blue’s(the computer company, not political affiliation) approach to marketing their services. On the execution level we just refer to it as high level messaging and in the political world they refer to it as talking points. Stick to messaging, stick to talking points.

    A good tie in with this would be an interview I heard on Fresh Air – I can’t remember if it was Ari Fleischer or Scott McClellan(I think it was McClellan). They both did interviews that were played back to back. One of them was asked about the extend of Karl Rove’s involvement in developing press packets. In the past it was the job of the press secretary to develop those – you know a basic agenda of where the president would be that week and what he would be talking about. During GW’s presidency however, Karl Rove himself developed them and took them to a new level to cover not only the basic agenda but also included talking points for the week, relevant stories to highlight – in a nutshell it became a piece of propaganda. At that time he also changed who it was sent to – some liberal media was excluded and many conservative outlets were included. The packets became an action plan for how to spin the upcoming week which is why no matter what station you turned it to, on any given week during the Bush administration you would see a conservative representative not only pushing the same points as all their colleagues, but even using the exact same language to describe. Certain words were given conceptual weight and were used exclusively. Also the inclusion of only certain contacts on that list made access easier for conservative friendly media to follow the president’s schedule while the liberal media wasn’t afforded the same luxury.

    …now I don’t think this was part of the week’s talking points, but I remember watching reaction from conservatives to the DNC on Larry King(or was it FOX?) and I swear to god one of the guys was trying to compliment Obama by saying something like, “…hats off to Obama for running a great race. He took that anti-establishment, “insurgent” if you will, campaign all the way to his party’s nomination.” Nice compliment, Dick.

    I’m glad you linked to this article because it highlights the most frustrating thing for any liberal who lives in a red state. Their leaders simply do not resonate with the poor and lower middle class – they just don’t talk to them on their level. Plus it hurts them that there are so few charismatic good ole boy dems – Bill Clinton & Ann Richards are one of the few in recent memory who I think related on that level. McCain is less of that mentality but Palin certainly is and of course the Bush family wrote the book on that…

  2. yeah, rove was a master at using the technique. now if we could only use those powers for good, and not evil…

  3. …you know the one thing that article fails to point out in terms of framing is the huge shift in strategy by the Republicans to now adopt a message of “Change” which has of course been a key slogan for the Obama campaign for months now. I guess they feel they can take Obama to task on his record for change but McCain’s record doesn’t suggest he would win that argument either.

  4. i think that’s the one message in the last long while dems have been successful in framing, and the repubs are just latching on.

  5. The second piece I found interesting when I skimmed it. The statement of “truth” that “taxation is not an affliction” caught my interest, of course.

    Using “truth” like that is their own framing, because what they’ve said is absolutely false. Taxation is an affliction. It is theft. It is morally wrong. It is armed thugs coercing money from people at the threat of violence.

    It disgusts me that the article goes to the extent of claiming some “moral basis” for re-framing taxation. What it boils down to? “They’re rich and it’s not fair! Wahh! Mommy government, bring in your guns and steal money from them and give it to me!”

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