They Picked a Good Day to Publish Brain Frames Book!

2 06 2008

George Lakoff’s new cognitive science (power of story!) book “The Political Mind” is out today. Subtitle: “Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain.”

Diane Rehm is interviewing him right now on NPR:

June 2, 2008 Linguist George Lakoff on what recent brain research demonstrates about the power of language to shape unconscious thought… and why he believes anti-democratic forces in this country will prevail unless progressives start using language that can change brains.

I just heard him respond to a caller that, “MERE EDUCATION WON”T HELP. . . Unless you learn how thinking really works, from grade school on, you’re gonna be susceptible . . . you teach people about training and metaphors, that the Father of the Country isn’t “Daddy”, as a normal way of thinking . . .

I’ll add the audio link later tonight when it’s available.

On June 2, 2008, my book The Political Mind will be published. It is a popular introduction to what has been discovered about the brain and the mind over the past 30 years and why it matters for politics. I will be on a book tour during the month of June, and will spend considerable time after that promoting the ideas in the book.

. . .My years at Rockridge have also put me in a position to do some socially useful consulting. For advocacy groups doing full service communications, I’ll have the opportunity to help through Fenton Communications. I will also be available for other progressive consulting work, both inside and outside of politics per se. Since I will no longer be part of a 501(c)(3) organization, I will now be free to work directly with political groups and candidates and on issues of legislation.

The accumulated Rockridge research puts progressives in a position to do the Big Job, namely, seriously challenging conservatives on the major ideas in American political life that they have been dominating in public discourse: the nature of security, government, the market, taxes, foreign policy, freedom, fairness, morality, religion, patriotism, education, character, responsibility, and on and on.

What is needed is a major progressive effort to build a progressive cognitive infrastructure, so that progressive legislators need never hesitate to express their beliefs out of fear that the conservative message machine will attack them for it.

I will be campaigning for progressives to support the development of such an infrastructure.
. . . Our research group is now developing a wiki to make public the work of the group. We hope it will be available by fall. I’ll also be activating my personal website,, and updating my Linguistics Department site. The materials on the Rockridge site will continue to be available.

And now he’s describing Scott McClellan as playing out the Redemption Narrative . . .he says to change things for the body politic, we require am “alternative narrative” that gets repeated over and over until it begins to change people’s brains. The conceptual frames that make thinking possible in the first place. We can’t just will ourselves to think a certain way and it’s emotional as well as logical.

Now he’s talking about the differences in how progressives and conservatives see “causation” and he sees Clinton and Obama as opposite types of leaders. Hmmm. . . .



11 responses

2 06 2008

At the end he explained how it isn’t any one frame but working out a whole system of mutually reinforcing frames, that makes your desired change possible.

Apparently, every time one frame in the system comes up in discussion or debate, even when you attack and try to refute it, you wind up activating it in your listeners’ subconscious — and because it connects to all the other frames for that world view, which have been embedded by repetition and actually changed people’s brains, the whole thing gets reinforced all over again, even in the minds of people who might THINK you made the better argument and believe they agree with your politics, rather than the other system.

Frames, or scripts are the simple, easy building blocks of a whole system of thought. We basically cannot think without frames, so the pseudodebate some sci-blog types have — about framing or not when trying to shape public understanding of evolution, say — isn’t very scientific. Framing makes thought possible, it seems, and there WILL be framing like it or not. The only question is whether you’ll influence it.

2 06 2008

Okay, I bought the book on opening day — I’m a sucker for books I want to read NOW.

Here’s part of the jacket blurb:

The political mode in this country is not just about money, he argues, and it’s not just about geography, religion, or even power.

It reflects an even deeper divide in how Americans understand the world — how our brains work — resulting in two competing modes of thought when it comes to governing our country.

One is fundamentally democratic and one fundamentally non-democratic. And the anti-democratic mode of thought — better funded, better organized, and more thoroughly established — has been winning.

Remarkable new findings from the science of the mind show that real reason is mostly unconscious — what the brain is doing behind the scenes. Our brains use the logic of frames, prototypes, and metaphors.

[Metaphors, Lynn!!]

Our most important ideas — freedom, equality, democracy — are not fixed or immovable; they vary from brain to brain. Emotion does not stand in the way of reason but is required in order to BE rational. And empathy, not just self-interest [take that, Ayn Rand] is built into the way our brains function.

The Political Mind shows why these findings are vital to our politics: children and schools don’t work the way NCLB assumes they do; middle eastern countries may not fit democratization theories or respond “rationally” to the threats to their self-interest; “rational” incentives may work for corporations but not for the poor.

. . .This passionate, erudite and groundbreaking book can literally expand our minds as we work for a better world.

2 06 2008

Re the subtitle — an 18th century brain is what our founding fathers shared, yes? Doesn’t that mean they couldn’t possibly have conceived of some of the ways their words, frames, thinking and decisions would affect us in the 21st?

3 06 2008
Do Gas Prices Define “Hard Times” for Homeschooling? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Putting public library books on hold is “really expensive?” But what about the school system’s fuel usage just for bus transportation, never mind the community cost of books and buildings and teachers? What’s wrong with this librarian isn’t the price of gas high or low, or the state of the economy or education — it’s simply that she has the wrong power of story in her brain. […]

6 06 2008
Every Thinking Parent Should Read Lynn’s “Sometimes Funny” Post « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Talk about Power of Story! More evidence for Lakoff’s new book, that the stories we tell and believe actually change brains as well as minds […]

10 06 2008
What Can Homeschooling Learn from Our Present Political Stories? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Howard Gardner’s “Changing Minds” in all its education brilliance, and Lakoff’s ““The Political Mind: “Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Pol… Why I don’t often use political and religious labels for myself. Why I won’t play party […]

12 06 2008
Power of Political Story in Educating Our Own Old Brains « Cocking A Snook!

[…] rumors and even outright lies would logically seem to be a matter of substantive evidence, yet cognitive scientists are proving it’s really not. It’s power of story. And even as I say this and you might believe me, we both will continue to rationalize our own […]

21 06 2008

Coming Sunday in the NYT, this review (not exactly a valentine!)

. . .Lakoff is a puzzle. No one has more brilliantly dissected conservative spin. “My goal as a scientist and a citizen is to make the cognitive unconscious as conscious as possible,” he writes. But each time Lakoff the scientist exposes a right-wing frame, Lakoff the citizen substitutes a left-wing frame. First he shreds Bush’s depiction of Iraq as a “war” that can end in “victory” over a united “enemy.” Then he repeats each of Bush’s fallacies, oversimplifying the conflict as an “occupation” in which the United States is “losing” to a united “resistance.” It’s as though Lakoff were lobotomized.

But he isn’t. To dismiss his politics as a brain defect would do him no more justice than he’s done voters. His proposal to re-engineer our heads is neither democratic nor scientifically warranted. It defies public accountability, the very principle he purports to serve. It also underestimates our intelligence. The fact that brain formation materializes mind formation doesn’t simplify their relationship. To the extent that the brain is the mind’s recorder, physical laws constrain the writing process. But maybe the power of rationality isn’t in the writing. Maybe it’s in the editing. The mind, through the brain, revises itself.

We’re capable of changing our minds. Just give us a good reason.

William Saletan writes the Human Nature column for Slate and is the author of “Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.”

11 12 2008

Geoff Nunberg, another linguist I love, wrote this review for the New Republic, of the clash between Steven Pinker (ANOTHER thinker I love) and Lakoff —

Frame Game

20 08 2010
We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Snook with epic discussions of the Great Derangement of Matt Taibbi, the language stories and Political Mind of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo […]

23 03 2014

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