*** Not An April Fools Entry.***
Well, folks, I am deviating from my original plan in this series of framing posts that I’ve promised. I had wanted to launch into a long–and, I think, revealing–insider narrative account of how it is that we wound up being this polarized. But that will take me some time to write.
People on the last comments thread, though, seem impatient for me to get to “substance.” So I thought a slight deviation in my plan would be both more satisfying to them, and also quite illuminating.
What follows, then, is a series of premises that, at least to me–not necessarily to Nisbet, because I haven’t specifically checked this with him–underlie the broad “framing science” argument. I’m going to list them, and then I am going to ask readers which premise, if any, they reject.
So here are the premises. Note that they are not issue specific. Note also that I am not providing references on any of this, but of course the premises broadly grow out of the social science/communication literature that is Nisbet’s area of expertise, as well as some of my own writings and our joint presentation together:
1. We have long-running politicized science controversies on subjects like evolution and climate change, with separate polarized camps and the repeated use and misuse of complex scientific information in the arguments.
2. Wonks and science enthusiasts–and ScienceBloggers!–can parse these arguments. But most members of the general public are unlikely to grasp the fine scientific details, and–having neither the time nor the interest to deeply inform themselves about them–are more likely to make up their minds about these complex issues in the absence of real detailed knowledge about them.
3. Rather, these members of the public will rely on cues, cognitive shortcuts, and sources of information that may not be scientific–e.g., church leaders, neighbors, Fox News. They will use these information sources, in combination with their partisan, ideological, or religious backgrounds, to make up their minds.
4. Furthermore, in the fragmented media system, many members of the public can opt out of receiving high quality scientific information entirely–and often do. They can just turn the channel. They can watch the Food Network.
5. Therefore, if–if–you want to get beyond audiences of science enthusiasts who understand the fine details, and move this broad public on these highly complex and politicized issues, you have to do more with your communication strategy than simply informing people about the details of science.
6. Rather, you have to pare down these highly complex issues–or “frame” them–selectively highlighting just those aspects of the issue that will resonate with the core values of the particular audience (and there are different audiences, of course, and different frames will work for them).
7. Furthermore, you have to reach a given audience through the media outlets it is actually going to–and that will often not be scientific media, ScienceBlogs, etc.
8. All of this leads to the following conclusion: With various types of intensive (and expensive) research–polling, focus grouping, media research, frame analysis, etc–it ought to be possible to come up with a communication strategy that should work on a given scientific issue. However, these strategies will often not involve talking about the technical details of science. Often, it will be important to emphasize other aspects of the issues–moral, economic, and so on.
So what exactly do people reject?