Two blogs ago, I discussed political framing, and how adroitly the Far Right has used it on the USA. Here’s a chilling example of exactly how framing can manipulate minds toward outcomes the framer seeks:
I quote from a chapter I wrote in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, (Island Press, 2006):
Cognitive psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amous Tversky told a group of subjects to imagine that an unusual disease was expected to kill 600 people. Then they asked the group to choose between medical treatment A, which was expected to save two hundred, and treatment B, which offered a one third probability of saving all 600 and a two thirds probability of saving none of them. By 72 to 28 percent, the subjects preferred treatment A.
A matched group of subjects was provided the same information about the disease and asked to choose between treatment A, under which 400 were expected to die, and treatment B, which offered a one third probability that nobody would die and a two-thirds probability that all 600 would die. Here, treatment B was favored 78 to 22 percent.
In each case, the choice was identical, but one was framed in terms of the number of people who would live and the other by the number who would die. By altering the way in which the choice was framed, the framers spun people’s preferences 180 degrees.
To be fair, framing can be an honest way to express a point. In the hands of ideologues, oligarchs, domestic ayatollahs, and other polecats, it can be sinister as hell, manipulating people to act completely against their best interests.
An election is coming, people. Be prepared!