Thursday, April 12, 2007

Am I missing something? Or am I just suppossed to accept the world as it is?

The more and more I read from the neo-framers, the more and more I am concerned. Am I missing something? Knowing your audience and communicating ideas/concepts are something I think all of us can get behind. Framing though, at least how they are portraying it, seems to be a different beast.

I already commented on Nisbet's comment regarding framing as a means to have people make up their minds in the absence of knowledge. On Nisbet's blog he refers people to Dietram Scheufele blog articles on framing science. I decided to take a look. The Oct. 23, 2006 piece on Framing Wars Religion vs. Science caught my attention. With regards to the stem cell ads & the frames used he writes:
"And the strategy of recasting opponents of expanded stem cell funding as anti-science and anti-life may very well work on November 7. But more importantly, these attempts to establish one frame over another are good indicators of what we can expect for future debates about emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology.

And they highlight a key aspect of successful communication. Neither proponents nor opponents of stem cell research build their arguments on scientific information. What they rely on are heuristics or cognitive shortcuts that will allow voters to make decisions without understanding the obvious complexities surrounding the issues. And it doesn't matter if these shortcuts are based on religious beliefs, celebrity, or personal hopes. Packaging matters ... regardless of which side of the issue you’re on."

To me it is dangerous to base decisions on such shortcuts. As noted in the Handelsman et al. piece in Science in 2005 on More Women in Science, Richard F. Martell demonstrated that "only when subjects were able to carefully allocate all of their attentional resources did sex bias in work performance ratings abate". In other words, the work suggests unconscious bias requires thought to overcome. There aren't shortcuts when fitting these biases. It requires time to think and evaluate the objective facts. The subjective leaves people open to making choices based on these biases. What Nisbet, Mooney and Scheufele are encouraging is exactly that, decision based not on the facts but the subjective biases lenses we all have.

I have not yet seen them address this concern. What limits will be in place to insure in the quest to win public opinion on issues such as stem cells, global warming, etc. that they don't frame to tap into these biases? What selection will keep that from happening?

In a democracy how you come to a decision has to matter by definition. The subjective is a very dangerous place to be. Fear can overtake reason very quickly.

Am I being overly concerned about what is being suggested? Or have things gotten that bad that scientists must act in this manner to prevent the "other side" from "winning"?

2 comments:

Kate said...

"Am I being overly concerned about what is being suggested? Or have things gotten that bad that scientists must act in this manner to prevent the 'other side' from 'winning'?"

in other words, are we matching fire with fire...which is a question that i've also raised, based on how C&M have been framing their side thus far

appreciated your posts on the intersection, and particularly agree that "with the right hook (frame) with the facts will work better than framing alone." while i agree w/ M&C that media and societal pressures have driven scientists into an inevitable "framing" dilemma, my greatest concern in all of this is that scientific fact is being shortchanged (or at least framed to appear as such) when it should be incorporated into a nice tidy substantive package that's public-friendly.
anyway, looks like you've done your homework...

PonderingFool said...

Kate thanks. It doesn't seem to be one that is being addressed in the debates on the Scienceblogs for the most part which is a shame. I think part of the problem is that Mooney and Nisbet used wording that framed their message wrong, taking the debate into the wrong direction.