Workshop Pre-reading

Workshop Pre-reading: A quick intro to frames and the conservative and liberal worldviews. You can also find this information in Lakoff’s books listed below. We will review this, but Please read this pdf document before you come to the workshop.

Tavis Smiley Interview (Video) with George Lakoff (video, 23 min). A great introduction to Lakoff’s approach -the interview George himself thinks is great! (Audio podcast version.)

Post Workshop Downloads

Why” Worksheet -(Download) a blank version that helps you connect to the core values you’ll need to frame messages.

Stop, Drop and Roll: Message Builder Checklist (Download) In conjunction with the Why Worksheet, the Message Builder will help you create and refine your message and avoid common mistakes. (Download)

Recommended reading and video

Pew Center Political Typology Quiz -(Website) where exactly are you in the political landscape?


George Lakoff

Don’t Underestimate Trump (Article) Despite the title, is about the most compact treatment of what framing is, why Republicans have been so successful at it  and why Democrats have ignored the science (no surprise, the reasons have to do with how our brains are wired). A great way to start your framing journey.

The Little Blue Book. (Book) A practical treatment of framing and progressive communication.

Don’t Think of an Elephant. (Book) Lakoff’s classic -must reading, many examples of issue framing.

Moral Politics. (Book) Lakoff’s scholarly presentation of his theory of framing in the political context.

Thinking Points.  (Book download) by George Lakoff, similar to Don’t Think of an Elephant. This is a free Download of the book, distributed with permission.

How conservatives use language to dominate politics. (Article)

Democratic Strategies Lost Big Heres Why and How to Fix It (Article) A critique of the Democrat’s failure to use effective communication with some nice background and tips on framing.

Framing 101.(Article) A quick guide to framing.

Cognitive Psychology

Besides framing,  century of cognitive research concludes that though the human brain can think rationally, it was not evolved to do formal reasoning, but to keep us alive long enough to reproduce. This “good enough” reasoning helps us avoid danger and coalesce into social groups and is driven primarily by our emotions and values; understanding quantum physics is a nice by product. In other words our rational brain, in many ways, evolved to rationalise what our emotions and values have already decided.

The Little Book of Revolution (Book) by David Akadjian. a surprisingly good intro to framing for the neophyte.

Thinking Fast and Slow  (Book) by Daniel Kahneman. Summed up: People don’t think the way we think they think. A broad survey of Cognitive Psychology relating to decision making. Our brains evolved to keep us alive and “System 1” makes quick evaluations based on learned frames and plenty of flaws. Though the more thoughtful and deliberative, “System 2” is capable of formal reason and logic, most people are not trained in it.

How Great Leaders Inspire Action  (Video) by Simon Sinek. The full version of the excerpted video used in the workshop.

The Gardens of Democracy  (Book) by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer – an extended version of this NY Times op-ed about a single, extremely powerful conceptual frame. Hanauer is a 1%er who deftly takes down the current system of wealth concentration.

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone (Book) by Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach (March 14 2017)

Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us (Book) by Jack Gorman & Sara Gorman (Sept. 2016)


While not primarily books or articles on psychology, the following items offer many ways to tune up your communication. It’s one thing to say it; another to say it well!

Cracking the Code  by Thom Hartman. We highly recommend this book. Chock full of practical communication tips especially using story and sense modalities.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

A Window into the Conservative Side

Lewis Powell

Written by former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, the significance of the Powell Memo (Article, 1971) in the genesis of extreme economic conservatism cannot be overstated. The Powell Memo sets the basis for the positions modern conservatives take on the economy. The wide acceptance of the memo in conservative economic circles enabled conservatives to fund and create think tanks and endow economic chairs at universities with the purpose of feeding “economic experts” to the media. The memo was fundamental in making corporate power and the conservative economic worldview dominant in America.

Frank Luntz

Luntz is the conservative strategist who helped Newt Gingrich (see GOPAC Memo below) usher in the corrosive, divisive, take-no-prisoners style of Republican messaging. Luntz can often be seen on CBS News as a consultant, though he is only sometimes identified by CBS as such -and never as the author of this pivotal and disturbing document.

GOPAC Memo (aka, Language: A Key Mechanism of Control) (1996). Created by Luntz for Newt Gingrich, it was a short list of words -a pocket-sized conservative cheat sheet- that put conservative language into overdrive. If you’ve wondered where the viciousness of conservative communication came from, here’s where it took off.

Words That Work The architect of conservative framing outlines how he believes words make all the difference. The first half of the book is practical and contains some insight; the second half is, on the surface, a look at issues. The conservative bias is obscured, but now that you know framing it’ll be obvious. If you buy this, buy it used so Luntz does not get your money!

GOP Health Care Framing  A look at how a specific issue is framed from a conservative perspective.