This week I’d like to discuss “framing.” Frames become definitions and often we act upon them without ever consciously recognizing their absurdity. An example may be helpful here. Think back to UK’s Got Talent and Susan Boyle. If you missed this show, just imagine a disheveled, slightly overweight, middle-aged woman dressed in a Circa ‘50’s house dress, coming onto the stage to sing. Nothing about this woman offered the slightest hint that she could sing. The audience began jeering and even the judges were exchanging smirks with each other while rolling their eyes. Again, if you did not see her appearance, just imagine this scene.
Now, what happened next is the point of this illustration. Susan Boyle opened her mouth and began to sing, and what came out was astounding to all. The most mellifluous sound filled the auditorium and everyone appeared shocked. Question: Why? Think about this for a moment. The expectation gap was suddenly exposed but the question remains: What on earth makes us think a singer should look a certain way?
Frames can be very subtle. Context often aids frames by way of forming definitions and clearly the public attending this live performance expected something other than this frumpy appearing middle-aged woman to appear on a nationally televised stage. That said, when Susan Boyle was through singing the crowd was absolutely raucous with applause.
Economy of Mind
What would you have done had you been there? Do you have the same sort of expectations? The fact is, we all do. The economy of how our minds work, gives rise to many shortcuts that are built upon our definitions and they do indeed form our expectations and often our interpretations. Assume for a moment that Boyle had just walked off the stage when she encountered the initial grizzly greeting, do you think anyone would have given any real thought to the talent they just missed?
Many times our expectations define our experience and thus our interpretations of events. When a politician frames another as a robot, for example, such as was done by Governor Christy to Senator Rubio during the final Republican debate leading up to the New Hampshire primaries, the frame may overrule logic. In this instance, Rubio was unable to overcome this frame and lost his 2nd place lead, no doubt in part due to Christy’s portrayal.
We shall witness many more attempts to frame competing politicians in a negative way during the months before our 2016 presidential election. Some will be successful, not because they are necessarily accurate, but because we may not take the time to understand the candidate and/or the issues. Unfortunately, that does not lead to an informed democratic process. I have fleshed all of this out in my new book, “Gotcha! The Subordination of Free Will,” but if you haven’t yet read the book, suffice it to say, this is but one of the many tactics available to those who would like to shortcut your thinking.
Now for what it’s worth, in my opinion we should all pay close attention to why we accept any frame foisted upon a candidate before we discount their viability. This election cycle may well be the dream of a plot written by Ayn Rand, where we see extreme candidates of opposite positions, a socialist by way of Sanders, facing off with a pure capitalist by way of Trump. We may be frustrated with how Washington is not working, but that frame alone may not be our wisest path to solution. And before any of you write me, I am not a Rubio supporter, but I do support an intelligent process when it comes to electing our next President.
As always, I welcome your feedback, and thanks for the read.
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions