Frame Analysis and Framing Tutorials
One of the most important methodologies we use at Cognitive Policy Works is the application of frame analysis to political thought. Our goal is to empower others to do their own analysis, which is why we put together A Practitioner’s Guide to Political Frames & Frame Analysis and this directory of articles on framing.
We prefer the terms cognitive models or mental models to the more confusing terminology around “frames.” Mental models are akin to simulations of the real world. They emphasize what a particular situation is and how we expect things to work. In a dollhouse we expect to find certain things – miniature stoves, cats, people, etc. If we found a nuclear reactor – well, that doesn’t belong in the model.
How we expect things to work depends on the mental model we use. For example, conservatives use the mental model of taxation as a burden to describe taxes they don’t like. Any and all discussion within that model revolves around reducing burden or adding burden, and thus no tax can be a good thing. However, change the model to one of an investor and the narrative changes and a cost/benefit analysis is put in play. (Of course, there is more that separates these two models, but it should be clear that the differences are significant).
Fundamentally, frames, cognitive models, mental models, narratives, etc are all just ways to describe the nature of neural networks and thought processes that underlie all feelings, thoughts, and thus all decision making. Frames were originally proposed by the sociologist Erving Goffman in his book Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience, published in 1976. The study of cognitive frames now spans many different disciplines – including sociology, computer science, psychology, and linguistics. The application of frame analysis to politics has been widely popularized by George Lakoff, founder of the Rockridge Institute and Professor of Linguistics at UC-Berkeley.
Start with this article as it covers the practical challenges of implementing frame analysis in the context of organizational change: