Messaging Battles in the Eurozone Crisis Discourse: A Critical Cognitive Study
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We know from research in cognitive science that all thought is physical, with mostly unconscious mental structures characterized by neural circuitry in the brain. Fillmore has shown that frames are the most commonplace mental structures, and Lakoff has shown that a huge number of mental structures are metaphorical, mapping from one frame to another. All forms of communication, whether language, images, cartoons, or gestures work via the activation of such frames. The more a mental structure is activated, the stronger the neural circuitry that comprises it will become. World-views are long-term systems of conceptual frames and metaphors in the brain. People can only make sense of ideas that fit their fixed systems of frames and metaphors. Many people have access to more than one world-view. If one is activated more than another, the one most activated will become increasing strong and the others increasing weak. The use of language and cartoons in the media can have a strong effect on which world-view will be strengthened in the brains of members of the public. First, the author analyses a corpus of 1000 op-eds employing political cartoons and pertaining to the ongoing Eurozone crisis (2010- ), and finds that the English-language media is attempting to undermine the euro and to foment the crisis. More specifically, the US and UK discourses on the crisis are a panorama of metaphors, categorizations, and blendings. These are normal in discussions of any important topic, but here are one-sided. Such communicative devices have the effect of moving the understanding of the public in an anti-euro direction. (While the discussions of op-eds are largely intended to substantiate the validity of the concept pictorial moral framing in itself, the analyses hopefully are of independent interest to students of journalism, and of word and image relations more generally.) Next, the author provides experimental evidence that visual moral framings result in short-term framing effects. Specifically, participants are exposed to either an anti-bailouts argument framed in terms of conservative morality or a pro-bailouts argument framed in terms of liberal morality. The results show that those who endorse both moralities (biconceptuals) are malleable in their political attitudes. Furthermore, the author demonstrates that presenting persuasive arguments congruent with non-biconceptuals’ worldviews can move them to take a stronger stance on the issue than they already possess.
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