The concept of frames

Edited Dec 9th. 
This is cut from “Between science and woo”

“[Rioters] are lawbreakers, destroyers of constitutional rights and liberties and ultimately destroyers of a free America.” 
— Lyndon B. Johnson, American president, 1965

“A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.” 
— Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader, 1967

an article by Sanda Kaufman, Michael Elliott and Deborah Shmueli


Frames are cognitive shortcuts that people use to help make sense of complex information. Frames help us to interpret the world around us and represent that world to others. They help us organize complex phenomena into coherent, understandable categories. When we label a phenomenon, we give meaning to some aspects of what is observed, while discounting other aspects because they appear irrelevant or counter-intuitive.

As I see it, ignorance about frames is one cause of miscommunication and dehumanisation in mental help. Mental helpers can – with the best of intentions, of course – be so stuck in their professional frame that they discount crucial information about people they are helping.

This sketch illustrates the framing problem from an engineering point of view:

I am not an engineer, but therapists, both psychiatric and psychological, have expected responses from me that are as meaningless in the context of my life as “seven red lines, perpendicular, some drawn with green ink and some with transparent ink, one in the shape of a kitten”.

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