Mixing Memory

A Framing Analysis Research Project

I’m working on writing up a lengthy description of an alternative to Lakoff’s political theory, mostly because I feel guilty about doing little more than trashing it without offering anything positive to the discussion. My approach is based on, well, actual research, and unlike Lakoff’s, it won’t be designed to prove the superiority of one political party over any other. If it works, it would be equally useful to anyone of any political bent. Part of what my approach requires is actual empirical research on the structure of people’s representations of the concepts involved in political debates (e.g., abortion, social security, health care, etc.). Unfortunately, college undergrads who are taking introductory psychology, and the people who are willing to do a study for $8/hr may not accurately represent the voting public in general (plus, no one’s going to give me a grant to do the research anyway, so I have to do it cheaply, which means the reward for participating will simply be the satisfaction you get for contributing to my project), so I’m thinking that the internet may be a great place to collect such data. It would mean spreading the word to areas of the internet inhabited by people on the political right, the political left, or somewhere inbetween or outside of that dimension. The task would be pretty simple. People would simply have to list attributes of a particular concept (e.g., abortion) so that I would have the material to stick that data into a model (I didn’t create the model, it’s existed for years), which would output “candidate inferences” that people might make with certain comparisons, analogies, metaphors, etc. That information would then be used to guide the way people talk about the issues. In other words, it’s designed to do what framing analysis is supposed to do.

My problem is that, well, I’m terrible at this social networking thing, so I am not really sure it would work to do it through the blog, and by soliciting other blogs. My question to you, then, is if I set this up, would you be willing to participate, and if you have a blog, would you be willing to spread the word so that we can get a broad sample? Naturally, doing it through the blog, I’d make the data (excluding, of course, any information that would identify the participants) available to anyone who wants it.


  1. #1 razib
    October 23, 2006

    i have bring some center-right readers to the survey, i could post it prominently for a while on the group blog….

  2. #2 Fido the Yak
    October 23, 2006

    I don’t have many regular visitors but I’d be happy to spread the word for you.

    Will you be talking about Goffman some more? I’m fuzzy about the distinction between frames and keys and perhaps registers.

    Anyhow, I’d be happy to participate in your research.

  3. #3 slgalt
    October 23, 2006

    I think you might be jumping to assumptions about Lakoff’s work trying to “prove the superiority of one political party.” You might want to read all of “Moral Politics” first before you spend time doing more “actual” research.

  4. #4 Dave Munger
    October 23, 2006

    Great idea, Chris. I bet I could get Kevin Drum to bring you some voices from the left. You’d probably get several hundred participants from his site alone. And, if he posts it, some right-wingers would probably also link it.

  5. #5 Will Wilkinson
    October 23, 2006


    Wonderful idea. I’ll do anything I can to help.

  6. #6 L'el
    October 23, 2006

    sure, sign me up

  7. #7 Chris
    October 23, 2006

    Slgalt, I’ve read Moral Politics a few times, and if you will check your copy, I believe you’ll find that in in chapters 20-23, Lakoff provides several “arguments” based on psychological “research” (those are scare quotes, meant to be really scary), particularly from developmental studies, showing that the liberal metaphor is the right one, and the conservative metaphor is harmful. If that’s not an attempt to prove the supriority of one political party over another, I don’t know what would be.

    Fido, I’m not going to talk about Goffman very much. In fact, I’m going to try to get away from talking about frames altogether, at least until the very end, to avoid confusion. My approach centers around schemas (think “frames in the head”) and comparison, utilizing structure mapping as a guiding theory. I’m going to spend a lot of time talking a how existing knowledge structures affect the inrerpretation of new information and reasoning, research on political analogies, and things like that. At the very end, I’ll talk about ways to use this knowledge, and at that point I might get deeper into Goffman. I’ll have to think about exactly how I want to talk about it, again to avoid confusion, since Lakoff’s theory will dominate people’s representations of frames.

  8. #8 Brandon
    October 23, 2006

    I’m in. I don’t know whether I have any bloggers who read me who’d be interested, but I’ve already put up a post on it, so we’ll see.

  9. #9 coturnix
    October 23, 2006

    Yes and yes.

  10. #10 Clark
    October 23, 2006

    I’d help. But isn’t the self-selection by bloggers incuring a bit of the self-selection bias?

  11. #11 Todd
    October 23, 2006

    Chris, I think this sounds like a great idea, and I would be willing to help in any way possible. I do think that Clark has a valid point, so you (we?) would need to give careful thought to sampling issues, since internet samples are far from representative.

  12. #12 andrew
    October 24, 2006

    i’d definitely participate, although I have no blog to offer.

  13. #13 razib
    October 24, 2006

    ok bitch, now give us some direction! when? what? how long?

  14. #14 Chris
    October 24, 2006

    Clark, with this sort of thing, selection bias is inevitable. I just read a paper, in fact, in which they showed selection bias in lab experiments based on the incentives offered, and since all undergrads are offered incentives for participation, there’s no way to avoid them. My hope is that if we can spread it through different segments of the blogosphere, the sample will be as representative as possible.

  15. #15 bill Benzon
    October 24, 2006

    I’ll participate and I’d be glad to post notice at The Valve and on an email list or two.

  16. #16 Sean Carroll
    October 24, 2006

    I’d be happy to help publicize at Cosmic Variance. And I could suggest it to a couple of bloggers who are more right-of-center.

  17. #17 Brandon
    October 24, 2006

    Even if bias turns out to be a real obstacle, it seems to me that something like this, if it spread widely enough, could at least provide some insight into possibilities that should be explored in the future, which isn’t insignificant.

  18. #18 Sandeep Gautam
    October 30, 2006

    I’ll definetly help to the exent I can!

  19. #19 Bob Danforth
    December 19, 2009

    It would seem to me that it would not be of great difficulty to set up a Facebook app that would test just such frames and attitudes over a broad selection of people, both politically motivated and otherwise.

    By seeing their other connections as members of teaparty groups or fans of Kieth Olbermann etc or none of the above, as well as religious groups, or garden societies have a very sharp picture of where they are coming from. I don’t know how much of that is visible but participation can also give voluntary consent that would not be adjusted just for your app.

    Groups have already done this (often for selfish reasons such as the Libertarian Graph) so you would not even be an outlier of what happens normally.

    P.S. Some political positions are dysfunctional and some to the point of pathology, and they are partly as a result of child rearing, and they are primarily a function of Far Right Politics. There is considerable research on this including brain scans.

New comments have been disabled.