Daily Dose: Are progressives missing opportunities to create a new "reality"?

September 20, 2017

Since tonight is webinar night (the viewing page is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYgKTQomypU), this is going to be a relatively brief Daily Dose.


Here's some food for thought, about how important cognitive framing is to politics and life. We evolved with vision as our most accurate sense. For those of us who have (or still have) reasonably good vision, the vast majority of what we perceive to be reality comes from what we "see." Consider this - how easily our eyes are deceived! For example, look at the image below. What color are the squares in the center of each facing side?


The top facing side center square is brown, and the front facing square is yellow, right? Now here's the exact same picture, with the surrounding colors and patterns blocked out, so all you see are the two squares in question:



The image is not altered. The two squares are really the same color! And here's the amazing part - even when you KNOW they are the same color, you continue to see different colors when the patterns and colors are all visible. There's a cognitive reason for this, and it's because of how our brain evolved for our species' survival. Our brain literally adapts reality to fit the world, so that we survive and thrive as a species. 


There's a brilliant Ted Talk by Dr. Donald Hoffman (a cognitive scientist at UC-Irvine), "Do we see reality as it really is?", that explains this extremely well. It's worth the very entertaining (and surprising) twenty minute watch:



In this context, consider how easily our eyes (and brain) are fooled by simple things like color and texture. Then consider something complex, like politics and public discourse - how easily people's brains and senses can be altered and fooled without them even being conscious of the effect! Because your brain is adapting information for your survival - so you "fit in" to what is considered "common sense" in society.


This underscores the importance of cognitive framing in politics. It is critical to be aware of the powerful unconscious impact of metaphors, ideas, and language; and have the ability to make the unconscious conscious in order to communicate truth to people who might not otherwise accept it - especially when there are so many "illusions" to deceive people. 


Starting with your core values, and authentically connecting with people is the way to begin overcoming the lies and illusions, and communicating the truth so that people will accept it. In a very real cognitive way, we can actually create a new reality for people to believe in.