Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lakoff brilliant analysis

Handbook of Neurosociology

Today I would like to quote a clever analysis of US health reform. Just as an alert for any other country that wants to start a similar process.
Solving a Social Science Puzzle
In 2009, when President Barack Obama chose the policy provisions for his health care plan, polls showed that most provisions (e.g., no preconditions, choice of plans) were supported by 60–80% of Americans. Yet, when the whole plan was polled, fewer than 50% supported it. Why? Why the disparity between the parts and the whole, when the whole literally equals the sum of the parts?
The answer is straightforward from the perspective of real reason. When President Obama came out with the provisions of his health care plan in early 2009, the conservatives decided to attack it not on policy grounds but on moral grounds. They chose two areas of morality: Freedom (“government takeover”) and Life (“death panels”). And they repeated over and over that “Obamacare" (naming matters) was a government takeover that was a threat to individual freedom, with death panels that were a threat to life itself.
Note that the policy provisions were about the everyday details of dealing with one’s HMO. They were in the Practical Health Care Details frame. The conservative attack was in the Morality frame, activating freedom and life. The conservatives understood that all politics is moral, that political lead- ers all say they are doing what is right, not what is wrong.
The policy details and the moral attack were in different frames, located in different parts of the brain. From the perspective of real reason, the whole health care act was, for those with a conservative worldview, not equal to the sum of its policy parts. Conservatives and independents (actually biconceptuals, who are progressive in some respects and conservative in others) had their conservative moral worldview activated by the conservative moral attack. This separated the moral whole from the practical parts.
For progressives, their morality and the practical details fit together; for conservatives and biconceptuals (aka “independents”), they were different subject matters.
Such an explanation is natural when you think in terms of the brain and frame-circuitry. It is not possible when you think in terms of the logic of Enlightenment reason, where the whole is necessarily (logically) the sum of the policy parts
PS. You may find former posts about George Lakoff's work on cognitive science, here and there.
PS. This is the coda of the first chapter of the book. The whole chapter is a must read for those interested in "brain circuitry", language, metaphors and politics.

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