The marketers of processed food and beverages, as well as alcohol and tobacco, have understood the framing challenge very well. Minimizing the health threats of their products, they reframed the issue as a defense of the public’s “right” to smoke and drink…and to feed junk food to their kids. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” is the common refrain. It’s a matter of choice, freedom and responsibility.
According to common wisdom in neuroscience, about 98 percent of our thoughts are unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. We believe we think freely, but we actually don’t very much.
Behaviorist Jen Shang, who specializes in the psychology of giving, has shown in recent studies that words – especially words of kindness – can be very persuasive. From her studies, she says that when some combination of nine adjectives – kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, fair, hard-working, generous and honest – are included in fundraising solicitations, women increase their giving by an average of 10 percent. Clearly, women strive to be moral.
Do you have trouble understanding what people are saying these days? Do you know what they really mean? And do you find people in business using vague words with little meaning, without mentioning real people, actions or thoughts?
The language of economics and individualism has replaced the language of our common circumstances and shared risks. That’s why what used to be considered social insurance is now noted as “entitlements,” viewed by some as a threat to our national well-being instead of as a safety net for family-income security. In the highly emotional issue of illegal immigration, we also see dehumanizing language.
Twitter finished what the 30-second commercial started in the 1990s – reducing our attention spans from minutes to microseconds. The visualization of content hasn’t helped. It’s so difficult to get and keep someone’s attention these days that our political leaders are resorting to ludicrous visualizations to create hysteria, rather than clarity and reason.