Language Matters

In my spare time, I follow political discussions as best I can, primarily because politics influence all of us in ways both large and small, including the taxes we pay and the way our collective dollars are spent. The past several years have provided a wonderful opportunity for noticing how linguistic framing influences the way we think about the decisions politicians are making about how our money is to be spent. The best way to know what’s really going on in politics is by understanding the rhetorical concept of framing.

The word frame applies to discourse in basically the . . . → Read More: Language Matters

Perceptual Frames and Self-fulling Prophesy

In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is embroiled in a political and financial conflict that is influencing the stability of world financial markets. One of the headlines of a recent (9 August 2011) New York Times article states, “Wave of worry threatens to build on itself: Hesitation over the uncertainty of the economy can make things worse.” That led me to wonder the degree to which perception can actually determine reality. The term I associate with perception as a determiner of reality is self-fulling prophecy.

Although the concept of prophesies determining future events is ancient, its modern . . . → Read More: Perceptual Frames and Self-fulling Prophesy

The Bell Curve Theory of Life

The “Bell Curve” is the common expression for what is otherwise known as Standard Normal Distribution. The concept basically states that in any category, most members of the category will be grouped in the middle, with fewer members at the extremes. Wikipedia provides a fancy definition:

In probability theory, the normal (or Gaussian) distribution, is a continuous probability distribution that is often used as a first approximation to describe real-valued random variables that tend to cluster around a single mean value. The graph of the associated probability density function is “bell”-shaped, and is known as the Gaussian function or . . . → Read More: The Bell Curve Theory of Life

Framing and Reframing

Those of you who have studied NLP or persuasive communication are familiar with the concept of perceptual frames. The metaphor is fairly obvious: a window frame, for example, limits what we see on the other side of the window; a photographer can choose what is included in the frame of a photo by trimming the image so that it focuses on, say, one person instead of a group. The concept has been adopted by psychology for the purpose of understanding the context that determines how something is interpreted.

All communication (all? Yes, all…) occurs within a contextual frame. In . . . → Read More: Framing and Reframing

Does This Mirror Make Me Look Fat?

Perception is a strange thing. We can’t always see what is “right before our eyes,” and because perception is fraught with deletion, distortion, and unwarranted generalization, what we “see” may not be what is actually “there.” Self-perception may be among the most distorted of our perceptions. The classic question, “Does this dress make me look fat,” is a variation of the question asked by the Queen in Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who in the land is fairest of all?” The Queen doesn’t like it when the mirror proclaims Snow White the fairest in the land. The . . . → Read More: Does This Mirror Make Me Look Fat?

Weighty Issues

CBS News recently ran a segment about the TV show “All in the Family,” which was a hit back in the 1970s. The theme of the segment was about the way the show represented political discourse at the time. Archie (played by Caroll O’Conner), who was an archconservative, and “Meathead” (played by Rob Reiner), an ultra-liberal. I had watched the show with regularity when it was popular, and the aspect of the CBS segment that came as a huge surprise to me was how slender Archie Bunker looked. Back in the 70s, I had thought of him as fat.

. . . → Read More: Weighty Issues