The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain

The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain[PDF / Epub] ☉ The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain Author George Lakoff – A groundbreaking scientific examination of the way our brains understand politics from a New York Times bestselling authorOne of the world 's best known linguists and cognitive scientists George Lakof A groundbreaking scientific Mind: Why PDF Æ examination of the way our brains understand politics from a New York Times bestselling authorOne of the world 's best known linguists and cognitive scientists George Lakoff has a knack for making science make sense for general readers In his new book Lakoff spells out what cognitive science has discovered about reason and reveals that human reason is far interesting than we thought it was Reason is physical mostly unconscious metaphorical emotion laden and tied to empathy and there are biological The Political MOBI :¼ explanations behind our moral and political thought processes His call for a New Enlightenment is a bold and striking challenge to the cherished beliefs not only of philosophers but of pundits pollsters and political leaders The Political Mind is a passionate erudite and groundbreaking book that will appeal to anyone Political Mind: Why You Can't ePUB ✓ interested in how the mind works and how we function socially and politically. I was drawn to this book mostly because I knew of the author’s reputation as a cognitive scientist and as someone who was known for spelling out how cognitive science overlaps with and largely explains many of the phenomena that we recognize as falling along the left right spectrum of political ideologies And Lakoff certainly does offer some insights into how thinking occurs and what in particular is uniue about the way we think about political issuesLakoff’s main idea which should be apparent to anyone who watches endless hours of cable hours in rapture as I do is that whoever controls the narrative frames of a debate controls the issue itself and therefore always wins How is this the case? Lakoff says that our view of rationality is largely and erroneously informed by the Enlightenment which assumed it was conscious universal disembodied logical unemotional value neutral interest based and literal He shows several reasons why almost none of these are actually true For example we make decisions to help others perhaps that don’t actually maximize our own self interest and that are tied up with value and emotional content He claims that Democrats very often with a grating whiny tone remain stuck in this view of rationality Because of this they are still in the habit of trying to lasso the facts build charts and models and explain why Republicans are simply wrong on many of the issues Lakoff claims that this just isn’t enough Evidence reason facts and figures won’t win debates he claims But Republicans have learned how human reason really works – that it is in fact couched in tropes metaphors emotional phrases and associations – and they use them to their advantage in shaping political issues and talking points Republicans just couch the issue in the terms that will helps them their “narrative frames” and then repeat that frame over and over again until it sticks in the minds of the public Once stuck it’s difficult but not impossible to dislodge But doing so would just be a matter of finding the right frame that speaks to your political basis and saying it repeatedlyFor example conservatives have controlled the ideological frame regarding the “war on terror” for the last decade and therefore they control many of the issues that we associate with “homeland security” another phrase unused unuestioningly according to Lakoff that plays into Republican and neoconservative hands Instead of accepting the frames of uestions like “Do you think we should continue to fight the war on terror or pull out?” or “Should middle class tax cuts be extended or should they get a tax hike?” the issues need to be reformulated to emphasis what Lakoff thinks are the values of liberals and progressives fairness euality and government accountability In other words re frame the issues in such a way that benefits your own positions And then repeat that framing Over and over and over and over again – because according to him that’s the only way you’re going to win the debateThere are a lot of problems with this book though With an objective sounding title like “The Political Mind A Cognitive Scientist’s Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics” I didn’t really want any of Lakoff’s partisan comments I knew before opening the book that he’s a committed liberal many of my own sympathies too are very much left of center but he spends too much time demonizing one political perspective glorifying another and too little time providing details and supporting evidence for the claims that he’s making I feel that this saps the book of almost all of its credibility In order to have a book be a powerful explanatory tool instead of a passing as a fat pamphlet for the Obama campaign it should stick to the facts of the matter accompanied perhaps with some reasonable inductions predictions and details of methodological practice Calling President Bush a “traitor” which he actually does accomplishes nothing Further it made me realize and as I read it that this book is simply an example of what he was talking about a successful example of framing issues in an advantageous way Of course he would be the last person to actually bring that to the reader’s attention I think the book may have suffered from being written for too popular an audience too It seems that the political potshots were filler for an audience who was eager to see their opponent trashed than to actually read something about how cognitive science can help us better understand how we think metaphorically about political issues I came really close to giving this two stars which I almost never do but thought there were a couple of insights that salvaged it from being a total loss so I opted for three stars instead For someone interested in this topic I suggest looking elsewhere Lakoff a cognitive scientist looks at 30 years of scientific research on the human brain and asks some political uestions What he finds is the political divide is “not just in geography religion or even power” it in our heads no pun intendedOur country was born from the age of Enlightenment when reason was king and emotion was irrelevant Emotions were seen as just cluttering the issue at hand The idea an educated well informed rational society will make rational logical fact based decisions and be able to adeuately self govern Rational being making rational decisions is an underlying foundation of our society from the judicial system to the nightly news Lakoff shows us that we do not act rationally and asks whyScience tells us that 98% of our thought is unconscious We are only aware of 2% of our thoughts Lakoff demonstrates that this heavily impacts our society through word choice metaphors and the framing of issues A good example is when the Republicans discussed the Democrats plan of a timeline to exit Ira Republicans used the term “cut and run” A person can’t hear “cut and run” without the feeling of cowardness or surrendering Another good example is using the term “surge” in the Ira war as opposed to using the word “escalation”Lakoff offers some constructive criticism for the “liberal” thought process Liberals argue by listing of facts like an encyclopedia and expecting people to digest them like a machine and arrive at logical rational conclusions Sound familiar? It did to me “Conservative” thought prefer to use emotions over lists of facts Now you’ll have to read the book because the liberal thought process is not just used by liberals and vice versa with the conservative thought process Lakoff argues against the metaphor of politics being described as right and leftLakoff tempers the science of the brain with bits with pop culture which keeps the reader interested and makes them aware of the ingrained nature of what Lakoff is discussing He brings in the Anna Nicole saga Reagan’s fictional “Welfare ueen” the latest in neural science and a analysis of framing and metaphors to provide insight as to why reason alone is ineffective that we need emotion and new enlightenmentHands down this was the best book I read all year It taught me to listen to what people are saying during a politcal conversation instead of thinking of what I will say next to refute what I think they are saying We all have in common than we are lead to believe; that commonality should be the starting point for change not the places where we differ This book will help you be a better communicator listener and thinker I have read Lakoff uite a bit He is an original thinker with some really good ideas from cognitive science especially in the role of metaphor in thinking neuroscience politics media and framing current events and political psychology He writes well and you will learn from him He is a little overly messianic about his own ideas in the sense that he sees himself as a political prophet He is good but not the second coming Still uibbles about tone aside Lakoff has some very interesting ideas A key player in psychology and political psychology I read this book because it was chosen by a face to face book club I belong to and I believed it to be a science read My initial response was great disappointment because this is very much a book of politics rather than science So you know where I'm coming from I should explain that I am a biomedical engineer working in the field of magnetic resonance imaging Going back to childhood my favorite subjects were math and art and I began eschewing social studies in high school At this point I have a considerable gap regarding current thought in psychologysociology However this book does briefly touch on MRI and on Artificial Intelligence both of which I have background in from one time or another in my career Part 1 is How the Brain Shapes the Political Mind The substance of the book is explained here namely that progressive and conservative political thought in the US is rooted in a pair of interfering fundamental neural frames Diverse progressive political positions are associated with empathy while diverse conservative political positions are associated with authority It is much complex than that but I just want to give the gist of it here What little there is of science in the book is explained in this sectionLakoff identifies himself as a progressive and the book is heavily slanted that way In fact a lot of it consists of recommendations on how to sway conservatives to progressive positions He goes so far as to label biconceptuals like me as confused and hypocritical His own views are the New Enlightenment and uite glorious Part 2 is Political Challenges for the Twenty first Century Mind This part was somewhat repetitive but clearly uses examples to explain how progressive and conservative political frames operate It is very specific on US national political issues of 2008 most of which are still with us in new form The civil war in Ira and now Syria has moved on to a whole new scenario since then But the coverage of health care and the role of government is uite relevant Part 3 is The Technical is the Political This part was a hodge podge of additional topics or expansions of earlier topics In Exploring the Human Brain he briefly and accurately gives the reasons fMRI is of limited utility in his field Unfortunately this means that the majority of his research is done using word association tests of human subjects and the like In The Metaphors Defining Rational Action he ventures into logic and decision trees Probably this is an issue in his own field but somewhat trivial and off topic from this book in my opinion In Language in the New Enlightenment he gives some of the academic background for his work touching on AI which I enjoyed and would have appreciated much earlier Apparently this is not his first book on the subject but I am unfamiliar with the others I feel that this book covers important material but that it does not cover it effectively In particular I think it descends into overblown claims of importance name calling and villianization thereby undermining its own credibility I downloaded a sample of one book he referenced The Political Brain by Drew Westen and in its beginning at least it seems to my liking This is a very important book for progressives to read Cognitive sciences are showing how our brains organize concepts results in conseuences for politics Most people's brains have developed in ways that can respond to terminology in a way that can activate emotional responses either consistent with conservative attitudes or progressive attitudes The times one version is activated by terminology the the strength of the structures supporting that view become Therefore the terminology progressives choose and implement affects whether listeners actually have their conservative or progressive structures activated and strengthenedLakoff explains how progressives tend to work under the assumption that political discourse is only a matter of facts figures and unemotional logic But that's not how the brain works Terminology has associations with brain organization built up during our childhood and otherwise as an individual's brain attempts to make sense of personal experiences Brain mechanisms relevant to politics are associated with feelings of right and wrong fair and unfair desirable and undesirable Those are linked to emotions and emotion related chemicals Unemotional facts and figures just aren't as effective by themselves as the emotional terminology and approaches used by conservatives Terminology that results in emotional activity in the brain is not necessarily blatantly emotional But taking care to use wording that elicits empathy and other forms consistent with progressive thought will activate and strengthen brain structures that support progressive attitudes in your listenersThis book is not presented as merely being a science popularization on cognitive theory affecting political thought It's intended to educate people on incorporating scientific findings into practical political expression Lakoff uses scientific jargon in the practical political parts of the book than would be ideal However that shouldn't prevent you from getting the essential ideasCognitive Policy Works makes available a free PDF download of Thinking Points This is supposed to be oriented to practical political applications but I haven't read it yethttpwwwcognitivepolicyworkscomw So Lakoff writing in early 2008 seems to think the Democrats have a messaging problem Prescient guy He beats on about liberals' failure to weaponize empathy and to claim that progressivism is American Perhaps it is the Reaganaut decade I was born into and the imitators that followed but this seems like too simplistic a take Americans seem different not because of some demented pathogen or hideous mutation we carry within us but because we've been #1 for so long that rather than change course and admit defeat as anomie and decay spread we double down and our most self destructive short sighted ualities grow concentrated and magnified Lakoff does talk about the powerful sway of risk aversion but rather than characterize it as something that Americans of all political persuasions might feel because of our declining grandeur and collapsing arcs of progress he imputes it to conservatives only I feel like he misses his own point I was first introduced to George Lakoff through his work in 2nd language acuisition His thoughts and work in that area was uite impressive so when I ran across this book I was eager to look into itFirst let me say that this book isn't really academic Yes it is written by an academic but it's also meant for general consumption I didn't read the reviews below before reading this book but in skimming them I am surprised by how people had to mention how academic it was or how technical it is Honestly I wish it was technicalAlso I had a hard time starting this book because it sounded too much like a liberal griping about conservatives The way the book eased into framing really annoyed me because it read too much like loose rhetoricaldiscourse analysis I didn't care about discourse analysis since I've read much substantial ones but then surprise Lakoff made a claim about cognition in terms of discourseSuddenly things were not words any He was talking about not only how we think with regular structures but how invoking those internal structures through language was how people got to emphasize different aspects of cognitionThere are three takeaways for meThe first is simply that arranging words in ever new ways allows people to process things differently Providing substantial framing through the use of culturally familiar metaphors isn't simply window dressing to invoke stolid logical relations those metaphors also allow the speakerwriter to slip into other arguments by analogy Lakoff has obviously first worked this out in academic ways which would be very interesting to look at but then rhetorical analysis has always taken the approach of analysing metaphors and reoccurring tropes as how writing and communication are structured And the use of rhetoric in this fashion was well documented since early orators from the beginning of human history Only because of the age of Enlightenment have we instead thought that somehow pure thought was only relational devoid of excess entanglements and that understanding supersedes the actual differences in types of expression or kinds of anything that the categories themselves are real than the expressions but really this can't be true since anything that is the same as anything else is simply the same thing unable to be distinguished from itself By tossing out information or being reductionist we lose part of the picture The uestion of course is always what context which part is itself the operant part?The second takeaway from this book is itself rhetorical in a way Lakoff insists that the beyond of language lies solely within the cognitive structures of our neurons while he seems to imply that such structures are too difficult to decode neurons fire too uickly and are too small and numerous to keep track of He calls uite often mostly in the latter third of the book for a New Enlightenment one that at first seeks to find the deeper structures of our minds through the use of framing that we can get at these deeper cognitive structures through intensive rhetorical analysis much like Chomsky's deep structure of grammar I understand this book is not academic so I am left understandably a little vague as to how this would exactly work He dismissing Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar UG project as constrained by Old Enlightenment thinking although he highlights UG's project structure as a model for a new field of study Lakoff is serious about merging discourse analysis with cognitive computation He cites numerous thinkers like Charles Fill and the school of the Neural Theory of Language With this Lakoff is in a way still working within old Enlightenment aesthetics of thought If language itself is how we process thoughts which I think him correct there can be no real deeper structure to thoughts since they pick the expression that is best suited to being what it is I am not saying that this area of study isn't worth studying it is but people can think in Math symbols in body movements in melodies in other kinds of directly encoded formula instead of just language Further tropes and metaphors are specific to groups The study of such fields will inevitably change them As memes come and go so will the study itself always shadow the area of study To codify those areas of study with academic jargon which is also inevitable will inevitably introduce distortion as frames used to discuss those areas themselves formulate the field of study this is of course start of a different discussion the philosophy of science and justificationism which is beyond the point of this reviewThe third takeaway which I find very invigorating is that poetry and philosophy through this field will be seen again as socially valid Both of these areas have been somewhat repressed by our current capitalist frame as neither directly contributes to producing or retaining wealth Yet the deeper reasons for such repression may very well be that such fields of semiotic slippage are also fields which revolutionize and alter perception ever so slightly loss of these areas of the language arts amounts to a loss of our ability to step out of much of our framing People can't rebel against what they can't see And people can't effectively rebel if they do not realize a way out I don't mean to suggest that bands of poets or bands of philosophers rove downtown office buildings across first world nations to blow people's minds And even if they could there isn't any reason to do that After all people who do want to see alternatives will eventually find them It's just that there's a reason why much of these two areas is difficult to comprehend The transformative power of both poetry and philosophy have been well documented throughout history even if today they are often dismissed as being irrelevant by serious professionals Lakoff dismisses classical philosophers as Old Enlightenment and perhaps they should be dismissed in that way but the Cliff Note's version is only our socially accepted conclusion of what amounts to lifetime upon lifetime of work by society's best and brightest As one who reads Enlightenment thinkers I must say that their writing does often leave one to see how they turn around objects create auxilitary objects and speculate the pure relations between collected bundles in an attempt to make sense of the world In effect you can learn from their learning You can make better sense of the world through watching others attempt the same thing The lesson here isn't always the content itself but how the content is formulated while not itself a matter of Framing very much a matter of the creation of context and structure roots of framingLakoff's book can be read as a call to action against stolid ways of thinking against conventionally tried methods of making sense How much sense do things make now? We race our cars around polluting the planet we spend our health and our youth to make wealth only to spend that wealth to try to regain youth We make tons of waste every year from products that historically wouldn't be looked on as trash And we bury this stuff in our own backyards Yes it's true that Lakoff prizes being a progressive against being a conservative But even those progressive frames are the products of the very systems that compel us to behave the way we do I understand one step at a time But all the samePerhaps it's time for us to return to such areas in an attempt to find our own freedom so we won't simply be money spending money making machinesAll in all you can tell that Lakoff is just getting warmed up He very obviously intended progressives and progressive strategists to take into account cognition in politics not as a call to step out of thinking in old familiar frames Instead let's use the ones we have to push forward progress After all Lakoff did after all help find the now defunct liberal thinktank Rockridge institute Even at the end of this book you can tell that he will write another Lakoff is a cognitive scientist in Berkeley an American cognitive linguist and philosopher and apparently a Democrat or a progressive Maybe a liberal He believes Democrats can do better after the presidential loss in 2016 Midterm elections are around the corner and back in 2016 he wrote a piece on how to understand Trump and How Can Democrats Do Better Have the Democrats followed his advice?view spoilerBeware if you're a Democrat Steven Pinker said that Lakoff's prescriptions are a recipe for electoral failure hide spoiler audio book First off I can't recommend this book as an audio book Its densely academic writing style reuires way too much brain power to process especially while driving But if I hadn't been listening to the audio book I probably wouldn't have finished the book What the book has in academic writing style it seems to lack in academic proof Perhaps the print copy has citations but mostly what I heard was a complex narrative based on unproven axioms Here's what I did get out of the book and it's a reminder of what I learned from a linguistics course in college our thinking is shaped by our language and we don't realize it most of the time Taking to heart Lakoff's points about metaphors and the unconscious connotations they bring into our thought process is a mental diet for me It helped me be aware of the use of underlying metaphors in political sound bites and helped me hear them with detachment It's also helped me take political rhetoric less personally which is a godsend right now I can't recommend the book because the noise to insight factor was just too high for me So to help out I'll include the list of 7 biases that we as humans should be aware of in our thinking according to Lakoff You can look up the background research on your own if you're inspired1 Optimism bias We don't like to plan on worse case scenarios2 Control bias That we have control over the situation than we do3 Reactive devaluation If our opponent presents an idea we automatically think it's bad4 Fundamental attribution error Other people's bad behavior or opinions are because they are bad people; our bad behavior or opinions are based on our circumstances5 Loss aversion bias We will do to avoid loss than chase gains We'll avoid certain loss for uncertain gain6 A specific example is taken as the average example If you only hear one example you don't assume it's the best or the worse but rather the most common7 We always think rationally and are aware of anything influencing our thoughts Lakoff goes on throughout the book about how progressives are stuck in the old style enlightenment view of reason while conservatives have used a batch of Jedi Mind tricks over the past three decades to replace analytical reasoning decisions with emotions I’d say the starting point is that people think the brain is basically like a computer that runs calculations and from those evaluations people make decisions that will best serve them HOWEVER from his studies he says people are nothing like that and any kind of rational decision has an emotional component Politics has its power because it is really our morals writ large “That is why government budgets are moral documents” People arrive at politicalmoral views from an emotional starting point and these views are held with the same strength as personal morality Plus the way the brain works means political personal morality is tied by our own brain circuitry to emotions and narratives we live bySo the worldviews people have are arrived at by accessing parts of the mind that house fundamental emotions that are linked to other conceptual parts of the brain through “neural bindings” Or something like that I got a little lost on some of it But from a practical view it is important to remember that as we grow up we develop “primary metaphors” maybe hundreds of them And these metaphors bring meaning and emotion to our lives but since they are not logical they can only be accessed by binding them to narratives stories and frames I think of this along the lines of how you frame a uestion can lead to the answer Framing comes before policyIf health care is framed as “health insurance” then it will be seen through an insurance frame and the policy will fit that frame it will be a business with profitsWhen health care is seen as a protection – on par with police and fire protection then it becomes part of the moral mission of government Pg 67 One can see in scripts the link between frames and narratives Narratives are frames that tell a story They have semantic rolesWhat makes it a narrative – a story – and not just a mere frame? A narrative has a point to it a moral It is about how you should live your life – or how you shouldn’t It has emotional content events that make you sad or angry or in awe Pg 250All this action is similar to how habits are formed in that the re enforcement there is the stronger the psychological bond is In addition neural binding can create emotional experiences In the area of the limbic system the oldest part of the brain in terms of evolution there are two emotional pathways with different neurotransmitters once for positive emotions – the dopamine circuit – and one for negative emotions – the norepinephrine circuit There are pathways in the brain linking these emotional pathways to the fore brain where dramatic structure circuitry seems most likely to be locatedActivations of such convergent pathways are called “somatic markers” In that they neurally bind the emotions to event seuences in a narrative apparently in the prefrontal cortex Pg 27 28He has some suggestions on how progressives should use the same techniue to promote their ideas And I guess they are OK but overall seem pretty unexciting To get the public to adopt progressive moral positions you have to activate progressive moral thought in them by openly – and constantly – stressing morality not just the interests of demographic groups Focusing on interests rather than empathy plays in to the hands of conservatives Pg 53Anyway this all goes into his explanation how the conservative movement changed the metaphor of government as a helpful construction into government as something hurtful They use language to get the brain to connect the angry emotions to disliking government and happy feelings get tied to “small government” And this is all wrapped up in peoples own sense of the moralIn general he paints the conservative views in a poor light and progressive ideas as the natural nature of man and yes I know I am using metaphors to describe this book about metaphors And that may be one of my uibbles with this book he says even rational thinking has to access some emotion but when talking about any progressive viewpoint describes it using the same old school enlightenment reasoning that is full of facts that should convince I guess I am trying to say he recognizes the emotional metaphor in the conservative side but minimizes the emotion in the progressive worldview Of course I think the facts matter but basically we are back at the beginning and losing ground againAnother problem I had was he kept going back to conservatives using the strict daddy metaphor for government and I just suspect it is complicated than that He wrote this 10 years ago so it really shows how off he was about what a conservative is in that he assumed they believed what they said they believed Take the concept of character Why do conservatives dote on it? Pg 79Well recent elections have shown character has no real pull on conservative thought when “push comes to shove”Final thoughts Well as of today it looks like “conservatives” will pass the US budget that cuts a bunch of taxes in my frame it cuts taxes mainly for the rich and I am confident the resulting budget deficit will cause a horrible clamor to cut spending And since “conservatives” will never cut defense they will slash Medicare and social securityand my pessimistic apocalyptic worldview not sure which narrativemetaphor library I am pulling that from make me think it will all come to a head right about the time I will be wanting to take advantage of both of those social programs Oh reasoning and facts won't change anybody's mind and with social media these frames and narratives have a faster way to burrow into our brains this is my thinking and not in the bookYep I’m screwed we’re screwed And the narrative or metaphor or whatever it is springing to mind is the scene from Aliens 2 with the frantic and wonderful Bill Paxton screaming “Game Over Man Game Over”And it is all due to neural bindings in our brain like a version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers except it wasn't aliens it was just our own dumb selves Maybe a saucer will land in DC and Klaatu from the Day the Earth Stood Still will give us an ultimatum Narratives in my head my noggin is just full of 'em

The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century
  • Paperback
  • 320 pages
  • The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
  • George Lakoff
  • English
  • 08 December 2016
  • 9780143115687