Daily Dose: Why Democrats STILL won't pay attention to science (of framing)

July 24, 2017

WHY don't many Democrats (especially those in positions of power) accept the science of cognitive framing?


This is a question many people have asked, especially recently. Considering the disastrous outcome of the recent elections, it is critical that new ideas and strategies be examined. Especially those based on sound science.


In his most recent article for The Guardian, Steven Thrasher considers Democrats' failure even as an opposition party:


When the poll came out saying that “Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing” Trump, I thought to myself, ‘If only that were true!’” But they can’t even do that well. When House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley was asked by the Associated Press just what his party’s core message was, he “hesitated” and then said, “That message is being worked on.”


In fact, Thrasher lament the problem of Democrats' inability to communicate a positive, progressive vision to people:


And so, while I’m afraid of the Republicans running amok with access to nuclear weapons and the national budget, I’m also quite frightened by the Democrats’ inability to imagine a better world.

The Washington Post reported this week that 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents “say they are likely to vote next year, compared to 57% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.”


I'll talk about the pathetic new Dem slogan in depth tomorrow - "Have you seen the other guys" and "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future". Those of you well-versed in cognitive framing will already know what's so bad about those slogans for 2018. For now, why won't Democrats pay attention to cognitive science and framing?


The vast majority of Democrats and progressives view the world through the lens of enlightenment reason - rationality. We know this to be true. Most importantly, because of the way framing works, Democrats also perceive that all people have the same wordview they do. Therefore, in order to convince people you are right in your beliefs, tell them the facts, and they will (as you have done) reason to the right belief (yours) as well. The science behind this is very sound, and in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2011, George Lakoff gave a great example of this effect:


"It is a basic principle of false reason that every human being has the same reason governed by logic — and that if you just tell people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion."


In essence, Democrats are relying on false reason by clinging to outdated principles of rationality that have been proven wrong. A little later in the article, Lakoff points out the results of the reliance on false reason. They reject the ideas and science behind real cognitive framing, because it doesn't fit their frame of what "reason" is:


"But many liberals, assuming a false view of reason, think that such a messaging system for ideas they believe in would be illegitimate — doing the things that the conservatives do that they consider underhanded. Appealing honestly to the way people really think is seen as emotional and hence irrational and immoral. Liberals, clinging to false reason, simply resist paying attention to real reason."


The importance of cognitive framing and the unconscious to influence Democrats' behavior on this point is critical. Their very worldview (frame) that causes them to believe in a universal "rational" moral system, also causes them to reject any science that does NOT FIT THEIR FRAME. Therefore, they reject cognitive framing, because to accept it would not fit their frame of a universal, "rational" moral system based on their false view of reason.


The irony is that this is the same cognitive effect that causes many conservatives to reject the science of climate change. Or that caused many people esconced in 16th Century religious beliefs to reject Copernicus' evidence that the Earth revolved around the Sun. In fact, trying to force facts down people's throats that don't fit their frame will only cause them to become more steadfast in their beliefs!


The brief, 2 minute video below is from Climate One, and it shows Lakoff explaining this effect. I've discussed this effect in the past - it's a result of our brain literally changing information in our unconscious in order to fit our worldview, or dominant frames. So what do we do? Relate to people resistant to accepting the science of cognitive framing that if they care about science on issues like climate change, rejected by so many conservatives, they should care about the science that helps us understand and address WHY conservatives reject climate science. Cognitive framing helps us understand why we perceive the world the way we do, and informs how we can effectively communicate the truth about issues we care about, in a way the majority of people will accept. That's nothing to be afraid of and reject, it's something to learn about and use to win future elections.


George Lakoff at Climate One video



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