When you think of your vote in the great 2020 election, ask yourself why you voted for who you did. After four years of being barraged by the media, you probably reason you voted for Trump which I know all of you did because of one big thing, such as “the economy” and then maybe if you spent long enough thinking about it, a few other things, such as how much you hate “Black Lives Matter” or how not-with-it Biden seems. Whatever your reason for voting for Trump, I put forward that if you were left to research cold hard facts from unbiased sources, you would find quite a different set of issues as the most prominent, and probably happen to ignore at least one minor reason that contributed to your vote.

Some people think of worry as a small room, that only has so much space for all the hobgoblins in the world. If you add a new character in, another one gets kicked out.

What if, instead of that, different types of worry have different levels of attraction in your brain, like a bunch of planets have different gravity. When an event or decision gets thrown into the system, like a little asteroid, it will eventually fall into orbit around one of the planets.

When my last partner and I were thinking of going down to Bethany Beach during the beginning of COVID, we got into a big dirty fight. She didn’t want to go, and I did. I saw the chances of us getting infected with COVID at some gas station on the way, or getting into a car crash and getting COVID because we didn’t have a car, to be quite low.

When she thought of the situation, she saw an area of safety where we lived in Davis Square, and a great unknown area outside of our bubble where if something bad happened, there was no easy way to get to a comparable place of safety. I fumed and raged, because all of my back of the envelope calculations about rates of infected people and chances of them communicating the disease, multiplied by the likelihood of a car crash and the number of times we’d need to stop for gas and a bathroom, none of that made any impact on her.

In her brain, morality, responsibility, and alarmism are very large planets. They sucked the astroid of driving to the beach quickly into their orbit. For me, driving to the beach quickly fell into orbit around the planet of risk analysis. The asteroid was the same, but the planets it was sucked towards were made of different material.

The guy who birthed into the world the concept of frames was Erving Goffman, and you got damned know that guy was Jewish.

Erving theorized that frames are constructed of our values, our life experience, and the social cues of the people around us. They’re like little muscles in our brain that get stronger when we use them more, and they’re the coat racks we hang new ideas on.

To really dial this in, let’s go through a few of the general types of frames, so you might find it easier to understand. Here’s a list.

  • Conflict between individuals
  • Human interest
  • Morality
  • Uncertainty

Take a second to think of an issue you’ve recently felt strongly about it, and categorize your reasoning into one of these.

Specific frames can inherit from these forms, and can in fact be brought on by single words or concepts that get dropped into our mental space. These are like little magic spells that when uttered will quickly align the frame of the person who hears them with what the utterer wants.

For Republicans, an example to them is the word taxes. Any mention of a tax to a Republican will engender thoughts of thieving, of unfairness, and of corruption. For Democrats, an example might be racism. PR spin doctors spend great amounts of effort controlling the framing of a good phrase, as Trump did when he co-opted the phrase “Fake News” and made it his own. Instead of Russian disinformation, this label now points at the mainstream media and frames the mainstream media as being amoral, incapable, and self-interested. Of Trump’s bag of spells, this spell might have been his finest.

Discordant framings of issues might be one of the main reasons people can’t manage to see eye-to-eye, and seeing eye-to-eye is something America needs to work on right now. Further, framing cannot be avoided. You’ll always have a main frame on an issue that you’re drawn to.

However, the first step to avoiding being suckered in by somebody else’s frame, or the frame your biases make the most likely, is to know about this concept. Once you think of your thoughts and other’s propaganda in terms of frames, you can start exploring alternative frames you see in others or notice when an argument is one of differing frames.

Written on November 4, 2020