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George Lakoff: Communicating in Frames

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 2, 2006
Latest Update: February 2, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Communication and Politics and Religion: Frames and the Language of Persuasion

This lecture is drawn from George Lakoff's book, don't think of an elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Lakoff lectures to Democratic politicians and supporters. But his book gives solid comparisons of Democratic and Republican ideas and the frames in which they are set. It's a succinct and clearly written text, so that it should serve to explain the importance of language and theories of attitude change and persuasion for you, regardless of your choice of Democratic or Republican ideals.

The Republican approach to this same issue can be found in a PBS Interview with Frank Luntz.

A few of the principal themes both Lakoff and Luntz build on:

  • Language matters. Language symbols evoke cognitive pictures that have meaning for us. This means that we don't just process the actual meaning of the words we hear, but we process them within the frame we believe explains the context. Thus, progressives and liberals believe that we must have empathy for others, and they try to avoid to the extent that they are knowledgeable, the arrogance of knowledge. On the other hand fundamentalism assumes a return to the "good old days" (Karen Armstrong. The Battle for God) and exudes a strong sense of "knowing what is right." Thus, fundamentalists show little concern for the perspective of the Other, whoever that other may be.

    More soon . . .

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