[FOUNTAIN]Words create perception

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[FOUNTAIN]Words create perception

Why is the suicide rate in Tahiti so high? Anthropologist Robert Levy searched for an answer in the 1960s. After research and investigation, Mr. Levy found that there is no word or concept for sadness in the Tahitian culture. While Tahitians felt sadness, they had no word to refer to their feeling. Neither did they have a ritual to heal sadness nor a tradition of solacing sorrow. Mr. Levy concluded that because Tahitians do not have the concept of sadness, which is desperately needed in a society, their frustration was expressed in a high suicide rate. In cognitive science, such a condition is called “low cognition,” meaning the absence of a frame of reference that associates a certain concept with one or two words. The frame is the fixed definition of thoughts. In the United States, “to frame” means “to change the perception of a political party through language anew.” Linguist George Lakoff is responsible for giving the new meaning to the word. He found the reason for the Democratic Party’s successive defeats in the last two presidential elections in a lack of frame.
According to Mr. Lakoff, a frame operates with words, and therefore, new language is needed for a new frame. While the Republican Party successfully advocated its values with new vocabulary and new frame, the Democratic Party failed to do so. He cited an example of the debate over taxes. President George W. Bush came up with an ingenious term, “tax relief” instead of “tax cut.” What is the frame for “relief?” For there to be the relief, there has to be an affliction, and there has to be a savior who brings the relief. The reliever is the hero, and anyone who stands against him is the villain. When tax is discussed within the frame of “relief,” Mr. Bush is considered a hero, and the Democrats become the bad guys.
Mr. Lakoff elaborated his theory in his book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” which has been translated and published in Korea as well. An elephant is the symbol of the GOP, and the title is a warning not to fall into the frame created by the Republican Party. The book caught the attention of the Grand National Party, which was defeated in the last two presidential elections. To assure victory in the next presidential election, the Grand National Party is said to be engrossed in reading the book.
They want to renew the perception of the Grand National Party with a new vocabulary and a new frame.
However, the recent election of the party leader was tainted by the age-old argument of “the colors.” It seems to be dismal for the Grand National Party to suggest a new frame.


by You Sang-chul

The writer is the life and style news director of the JoongAng Daily.

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