Cognitive Framing Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives

I work in the cognitive and brain sciences. In the 1990's, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons anddaughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father's authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they are in charge of. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. What if they don't prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others -- who are responsible for themselves.


Folksonomies: politics rhetoric framing

/society/unrest and war (0.454251)
/family and parenting/children (0.449083)
/society (0.438929)

strict father family (0.944583 (neutral:0.000000)), Cognitive Framing Differences (0.761020 (negative:-0.623185)), various policy positions (0.754620 (neutral:0.000000)), Nurturant Parent family (0.690473 (positive:0.329566)), family life (0.675096 (positive:0.153711)), moral worldviews (0.525840 (positive:0.615811)), anti-government fit (0.511252 (positive:0.218104)), brain sciences (0.511109 (negative:-0.623185)), death penalty (0.500753 (negative:-0.727545)), progressive worldviews (0.500389 (positive:0.615811)), stronger military (0.498211 (positive:0.218104)), global warming (0.494213 (negative:-0.340409)), conservative spouses (0.493736 (negative:-0.283934)), opposite views (0.489321 (negative:-0.233956)), homeland security (0.488791 (neutral:0.000000)), personal responsibility (0.475630 (neutral:0.000000)), sons anddaughters (0.475134 (neutral:0.000000)), common forms (0.472045 (positive:0.615811)), moral duty (0.469190 (negative:-0.637819)), family terms (0.467917 (negative:-0.465433)), conservative politics (0.467745 (negative:-0.531663)), social responsibility (0.466366 (neutral:0.000000)), social issues (0.462608 (negative:-0.419143)), ultimate authority (0.457863 (neutral:0.000000)), physical discipline (0.455270 (negative:-0.373908)), external world (0.448874 (positive:0.574769)), progressives (0.374216 (negative:-0.233956)), conservatives (0.341645 (negative:-0.623185)), guns (0.311192 (negative:-0.373003)), children (0.296472 (negative:-0.609961))

global warming:FieldTerminology (0.734603 (negative:-0.340409))

Liberalism (0.974780): dbpedia | freebase
Conservatism (0.919849): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Political spectrum (0.757920): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Family (0.704679): dbpedia | freebase
French Revolution (0.649962): dbpedia | freebase
Classical liberalism (0.635948): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Centre-right (0.615220): dbpedia | freebase
Right-wing politics (0.609622): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Why Trump?
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Lakoff, George , Why Trump?, Retrieved on 2016-03-06
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: politics