George Lakoff on Big Lies and Truth

George Lakoff

George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a longtime researcher in linguistics and cognitive science. Here is an article on American politics, in which he gives advice on how to deal with Big Lies, and how to communicate Truth. George Lakoff writes:

Direct vs. systemic causation
“Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages … Systematic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language.”

Worldviews vs. languages
“Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it.”

Unconscious vs. conscious thought
“… most of thought … is unconscious. Conscious thought is the tip of the iceberg.”

Manipulation of unconscious thought
“… unconscious normal brain mechanisms are manipulated by …

  1. Repetition …
  2. Framing …
  3. Well-known examples …
  4. Grammar …
  5. Conventional metaphorical thought …
  6. … metaphor and metonymy …”

Big Lies
“… Big Lies repeated over and over are being believed …”

“… unconscious thought … shapes conscious thought via unconscious framing and commonplace conceptual metaphors.”

Communicating Truths
“Understanding how people really think can be used to communicate truths, not Big Lies …”

“First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false … claims and then rebut them with … facts. Instead, go positive. Give a truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use … facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.”

“Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying.”

“Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. … Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. … Be prepared. You have to … stand calmly …”

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Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

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