Monday, August 24, 2015

Changing the Frame

I’m a fan of linguistic expert Dr. George Lakoff, and of his profound little book Don’t Think of an Elephant.  His logic about how to frame communications is so powerful and so simple it astounds me that more people don’t get it.

Lakoff’s central theme (with apologies to GL for my inelegantly expressed version of his thesis) is that if you want to convince someone of your argument, you need to frame it in a way that fits their understanding of the world.

Many people in the advocacy world believe that if they simply present the “facts” with enough fervor and volume, their opponents will eventually capitulate. No, says Lakoff, forget that. That almost never works.

Instead, try to frame your argument using words and phrases that trigger a response in your audience that puts you both in the same thought framework.

Our BabySafe Project ( is a prime example.

Wireless radiation is a problem. Independent scientific research shows that biological impacts from exposure to cell phones, routers, smart meters, baby monitors and other wireless devices is impacting a growing segment of our population. Many experts are convinced that this current generation of people living in a wireless world will inevitably produce a massive public health crisis as the latency period for development of cancer and other illnesses begins to expire.

But that message – that wireless radiation is dangerous – just doesn’t fit into the public’s understanding of the world.  They love their technology, they love their wireless devices, no one is dropping dead, so what’s the problem?

So we changed the frame. Based on research out of Yale that showed that wireless radiation can actually change the way brains of developing baby mice are wired, and that this re-wiring results in serious behavioral problems that resemble ADHD In children, we created the BabySafe Project.

Now everyone knows that there are three types of people in the world: men, women, and pregnant women. Our society already accepts the idea that women who are pregnant need to avoid alcohol, tuna fish, and a host of other things, so adding wireless radiation to that list fits the frame that everyone already understands.

Not that is has made our job that much easier. Even with more than 160 world-renowned medical professionals and scientists now supporting our project, it’s an uphill battle getting people to listen. 

A few weeks ago, we testified at a legislative session hearing in Nassau County on a proposed bill that would mandate that the location of all wireless routers in county buildings be clearly marked.  People listened carefully, and there was noticeably less skepticism than I have witnessed at most governmental hearings on wireless radiation.

We may not win this particular battle, but by framing the issue to focus on pregnancy and brain development in unborn children, and making it a right-to-know issue for pregnant women, we’re beginning to make some real progress.

Stay tuned.



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