Friday, August 21, 2009

The PolicySpeak Disaster

I have long admired George Lakoff's ability and teaching on framing and messaging. In a post at Huffpo and DailyKos, George Lakoff discusses the Obama Administration's "PolicySpeak Disaster."

PolicySpeak is the principle that: If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

PolicySpeak is the principle behind the President’s new Reality Check Website. To my knowledge, the Reality Check Website, has not had a reality check. ...
To many liberals, PolicySpeak sounds like the high road: a rational, public discussion in the best tradition of liberal democracy. Convince the populace rationally on the objective policy merits. Give the facts and figures. Assume self-interest as the motivator of rational choice. Convince people by the logic of the policymakers that the policy is in their interest.

But to a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist, this sounds nuts. The view of human reason and language behind PolicySpeak is just false. Certainly reason should be used. It’s just that you should use real reason, the way people really think. Certainly the truth should be told. It’s just that it should be told so it makes sense to people, resonates with them, and inspires them to act.
In this health-care debate, the President's advisors have fallen into the classic policyspeak framing disaster to which we on the left are so often prone. The White House would do well to get a cognitive scientist like George Lakoff on board, and fast.