July 5, 2020
Frames are boundaries we set to direct gaze to something on which we want to focus or intend to make salient to others. Think of paintings, photos, or documents we tend to set in physical frames, to help us focus on them while excluding surrounding distractions. Mental frames serve similar purposes: either (mostly unconsciously) to cut down on what we consider to be data clutter as we make sense of perceptions and experiences, or intentionally, to offer others a view of reality uncluttered by what we think undermines what we wish to communicate. Thus, framing inevitably entails loss of data in exchange for meaning (or message). Just as there are many kinds of physical frames, there are also quite a few kinds of mental frames, which extensive academic research has identified. Framing may have practical implications for how we conduct our lives together: they may enhance or overcome deep divides that pit us against each other. In what follows, I will try to bridge between what we know from research about frames and framing and what might serve the larger community of BI readers and conflict management practitioners.
Framing has become a meta concept. This means it is widely used, having crossed the boundary between academic research, conflict management practice, and the media. When we unpack it, we notice that—as with other meta concepts such as mediation, sustainability, and resilience—framing often means different things to different people, which detracts from the concept’s descriptive and practical usefulness. To make matters worse, there are (cognitive) sense-making frames, and instrumental frames. Both kinds of framing resemble modeling, in that they help simplify reality, leaving certain elements in/out of the picture, to facilitate understanding or persuasion. . COVID understanding and reactions to it are rife with both sense-making and instrumental framing.
|We all use sense-making frames to cut down on the cognitive overload we would experience if we went in the depth required to understand every situation we encounter.|
We all use sense-making frames, mostly unawares, to cut down on the cognitive overload we would experience if we went in the depth required to understand every situation we encounter. These kinds of frames are in the family of cognitive heuristics, or mental shortcuts that often serve but sometimes predictably mislead. Although we can detect, scrutinize and even test our own frames against the reality they represent, it takes some effort and can be uncomfortable. Our cognitive frames are interrelated and shaped by our knowledge, values and past experiences. Changing one frame may lead to internal conflict and the need for deep introspection and reexamination of other frames. We tend to be understandably reluctant to conduct such shakeups, which accounts in part for the inertia of our frames. We tend to notice this inertia in others, but we are more tolerant with our own.
We craft instrumental frames intentionally, in order to get others to see people (including ourselves), events, processes and outcomes in ways that benefit us. Politicians are masters of the art of instrumental framing: they tell us it's not about what we thought it was about; rather, it's about what they prefer to talk about or about how they would like us to see it. Politicians also illustrate well the art of self-framing in ways they expect to get them reelected. Since instrumental frames are offered for specific purposes at moments in time, they are fickle. They change as the contexts and framers' purposes change. Political discourse serves again to illustrates the comparative fragility of instrumental frames compared to sense-making frames. The politicians' audience sometimes considers frame changes as a virtue, as in the case of civil rights or gay marriage. At other times, it can become the undoing of politicians, as when they run on reduced government spending but increase it to reward constituents or to respond to events such as COVID-19.
Choice of a physical frame is deliberate and driven by taste and purpose. For example, one might want to communicate wealth, position, or adherence to contemporary strictures for material and style. Mental frames are not all equally deliberate, since our sense-making frames hinge on our values, worldview, and experiences, which act as built-in filters. In contrast, the instrumental frames we craft and use to persuade others are selected as deliberately as the physical ones. We might expect instrumental frames, over which we have control, to be chosen carefully, considering the consequences they might have on those who might adopt and act on them. But as might be expected, instrumental frames are primarily chosen mostly for how they serve our own interests. COVID understanding and reactions to it are rife with both sense-making and instrumental framing.
|We tend to frame diversity in terms of relatively superficial characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, or religion... However, framing diversity in this manner amounts to stereotyping, which we claim to be wrong.|
For example, we live in a diverse society and debate how to make it work. But how to understand diversity? Arguably, in current discourse, we tend to frame it in terms of relatively superficial characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, most of which are accidents of birth and mostly immutable. These frames serve the framers' interests insofar as they are simple, often observable characteristics that become an easy-to-use checklist. However, framing diversity in this manner amounts to stereotyping, which we claim to be wrong. Casting individuals as representatives of ethnic, racial, gender or religious groups is much like averaging: it effectively reduces the diversity we seek, by robbing individuals of their agency and their real differences. In the process, we also make an implicit claim that birth circumstances trump individuals' choices. Worse yet, we miss the contributions of individuals whose values, experiences, skills and ideas, though not readily observable, make them unique.
The year 2020 requires us to confront events that are complex, large-scale, and outside our direct experience. Global pandemics such as COVID-19 are "generational black swans: " Not having experienced the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, most people in today's world have no memory of it. Protests and riots at the scale of May-June 2020 have occurred previously but are a distant memory for some, and outside direct experience for many. The pandemic and the social unrest are twin generational black swans, unlikely singly and even more so jointly! We need to make sense of the big picture, and of its day-to-day manifestations. In less unusual times, we reach for the news sources and experts we trust, and for insights from relevant past direct experiences. We still go to the same information sources as before, but now they seem inadequate because we face a lot of uncertainty about the pandemic and about economic and social effects of its interaction with the protests and riots. Complexity raging! Frames to the (simplifying) rescue, or so it seems.
How frames work and how they fail
|Once we form our understanding, we tend to believe in it. Ditching a frame is therefore uncomfortable and we tend to avoid the pain by holding on to frames as we keep old drugs well past their sell-by dates.|
In a new situation, we pit reality against our mental model of it (if we have one)—how we think things work, and causal links that we think might help us predict what comes next, which is what we really need. In this sense-making process, we tend to selectively discard what does not match our mental model (in part, to get rid of cognitive dissonance). Once we form our understanding, we tend to believe in it. Ditching a frame is therefore uncomfortable and we tend to avoid the pain by holding on to frames as we keep old drugs well past their sell-by dates. This is why it is easier to give new information to children and people who don't know anything about a subject, than to change people's minds/frames once made up. This is particularly problematic for conveying new scientific evidence to those who believe they have understood, and have accepted, an earlier version of facts.
For example, once we have become convinced that coffee (or saccharin, coconut oil, or butter) is harmful to health, it is annoying to hear that new research suggests otherwise, and at times the complete opposite. Some of us refuse to update. Others select whom to believe not by evaluating the content of the new information—they may not be able to get into the weeds of experiments—but by applying a trust frame to the source, with mixed results. Sometimes the trust frame is purposely offered by those who communicate scientific facts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard various recommendations and were told to heed them because they were issued by respected agencies—CDC, FDA, and the World Health Organization—and by well-known scientists. We were and are told: "you won't understand this complicated virus science, but you can trust the source!" We mostly did. This argument switched to "trust science," and soon we sorted ourselves by this frame. There were now two kinds of people: those who trust science and those who do not (regardless of the fact that both were based on flimsy rationales, since neither group understood the science of COVID-19). Soon, we even felt as if we knew a lot about the people in each group, beyond their adherence to one or the other view. We developed characterization frames, tending to the unflattering, because if we are right, they must be wrong, and not only about the pandemic. However, COVID-19 recommendations changed in the span of a couple of months, even when issued by the same sources. This has been understandably very unsettling to us all. It has made those who "trust science" wonder whose science to trust and deepened the mistrust in science of the other group. The gap between groups widened.
After having heard of, and believed in, precise dates for the end of global oil reserves or the extinction of polar bears or the end of the world, it is disquieting to live past those dates and realize that they were clearly wrong. Having committed to believing model predictions about the morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, we may be upset to find that they were wrong, at times by orders of magnitude. To reconcile our science frame with reality we may find ourselves rooting for any bad or good news that might eventually confirm the predictions we trusted. Again, we sorted ourselves in two groups: those who believe in the doomsday predictions and those who do not, with behavioral consequences including willingness or refusal to wear masks. The situation has not been helped by the media: doomsday reports and their opposite are broadcast daily, with each of the groups tending to tune in exclusively to the media shoring up their frame. This is an example of the real costs of frame inertia.
|One contributor to the inertia of sense-making frames, also related to the attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance, is their internal consistency: our frames hang well together, rooted as they are in our values and experiences.|
One contributor to the inertia of sense-making frames, also related to the attempt to avoid cognitive dissonance, is their internal consistency: our frames hang well together, rooted as they are in our values and experiences. Therefore, changing or renouncing one frame may require rearranging others. The 2020 pandemic serves again to illustrate this point. While several factors might account for observed differences in mortality among states, the media have keyed in on leadership. The governor of New York is cast by many (and frames himself) as a very effective leader in the fight against COVID, especially in comparison to the leadership in southern states such as Florida and Texas. National morbidity and mortality statistics suggest this story is more complicated, with New York (on July 1, 2020) still leading in number of deaths from COVID by a wide margin, along with New Jersey and Connecticut. However, the governor's image is tied—whether or not warranted—to other frames people have about political leaders, and about the populations at different locations in the United States. Changing stance with respect to the New York's governor would require rearranging a number of these other frames. That is perhaps one reason why the prevailing image of the New York's governor has proven surprisingly resistant to information.
Instrumentally, we craft and communicate models of reality which signal to others that we are in their group (we think alike). We also frame to "sell" an image to purposely get others to think like us, in order to rally them to a joint stance (e.g. political—about whether statues should come down or be left standing, or behavioral—about the need for physical distancing. We also offer frames to account for our stance (as in negotiation or joint decision making).
In the process, we may strengthen our own belief in the frame, raising the effort and psychological cost of updating it, should it be necessary. Thus, in both cognitive and instrumental framing, what we leave in or out of the frame has inertia: once a piece is in/out, it's very difficult to eliminate/bring back when new information becomes available. COVID frames exhibit inertia even in the space of a few months since the pandemic entered our lives.
Types of Frames
|Shared frames have increased impact and inertia.|
Some frames are individual, but those we often encounter in debates and in decision making situations are shared, and therefore have increased impact and inertia. Shared framing can acquire a shibboleth function. It contributes to in-group identification, group cohesion, and homophily (communicating by preference mostly or only with in-group members), as well as detection of suspected outsiders or "traitors." People tend to sort themselves out by salient shared (identity) frames. Therefore, groups holding different frames may polarize, seeing no common ground. Members of one group may feel virtuous about their shared frame and may view outsiders through a collective negative (characterization) frame. The "likes" on Facebook are contemporary signals of shared frames. Facebook unfriending gives the opposite signal and is sometimes announced to the in-group for credit.
There are broadly shared characterization frames about historic time periods, scientific theories, groups of people, and professions. Although many of us know/like/love a lawyer, the shared frame of the profession is rather negative. If asked, we can come up with related characteristics that account for this dislike. We tend to think "they are all…" (greedy, etc.) Businesspeople and police also tend to be negatively framed, while nurses, doctors and teachers bask in the light of positive frames. We may know personally some good businesspeople or some bad teachers, but we tend to think of them as exceptions that shore up the frame, instead of recognizing people's complex individuality. Political affiliation operates similarly to profession frames: although it is but one dimension that cannot possibly account for all facets of an individual's character and beliefs, once established it sticks; we apply to individuals other characteristics which they may not possess but which are part of the frame. We seem to have difficulty, for example, with a Democrat who owns firearms or is pro-life, or with a Republican who wants to protect the environment or is pro-choice; they do not fit our shared frames.
If professional or political affiliation frames remind you of stereotypes—a cognitive bias—it is because they are: they lead us to derive various individual characteristics solely from knowledge of an individual's membership in a group about which we have a frame. Closely related is the halo effect, a cognitive bias whereby knowing of an individual characteristic leads us to assume they belong in a group for which our frame includes that characteristic. Sometimes we may go so far as to deny individuals their own identification, because of the halo effect. For example, if we discover that a person has a keen interest in preserving fauna diversity, we may attribute to him/her a host of other characteristics that compose our environmentalist frame. However, hunters tend to favor protection of ecosystem diversity, even if they don't necessarily align with environmentalists on other issues. Note that halo effect frames tend to have less inertia and are more susceptible to information than stereotypes.
|Identity frames are portraits of the groups of which we would like to be seen as members. ... We use them to communicate to others how we would like to be seen (a current term for strong broadcasts of identity frames is virtue signaling).|
Identity frames are portraits of the groups of which we would like to be seen as members. (They are different from individual identities.) Thus, instrumentally, they are typically positive. Consequently, they distinguish between in-group and out-group individuals. We use them to communicate to others how we would like to be seen (a current term for strong broadcasts of identity frames is virtue signaling). While they may be useful in cutting down on the cognitive effort of getting to know individuals, identity frames have a side-effect: putting ourselves in the other's shoes, a key conflict management skill, becomes a challenge. If out-group individuals are framed—explicitly or implicitly—negatively, it becomes difficult to understand their perspective in other than evil terms. This is a framing trap: mutually advantageous tradeoffs, a negotiation device for achieving implementable agreements, are precluded by the appearance of dealing with the devil. The result is polarization and paralysis when consensus is required for joint decisions. Then only use of force and violence to attain victory over evil can get us what we seek and find virtuous. Our current political dynamics rely heavily on identity frames, to the detriment of any attempt at resolving some of our problems. The COVID-19 pandemic has become politicized, with heavy reliance on identity frames. Solutions to the problems the pandemic has generated are evaluated by the proponents' identity rather than the merits of the proposals. We all lose from this strategy.
Another framing trap unhelpful to conflict management is seeing individuals as representatives of their groups, driven by what we imagine/frame as their interests, motives, and character. When we try to explain why we did what we did, we usually frame the answer as contingent on, and driven by various circumstances; but we explain others' behaviors in terms of who we think they are-—simplified portraits (frames) stripped of context, which we would likely reject for ourselves. In other words, we can see our own complexity, that a frame cannot possibly capture, but we deny others their complexity or their acting in response to circumstances; they (the members of other groups) are morons, evil, uneducated, or the worst—Democrats/Republicans!
|Story frames are akin to narratives. They tell stories that make sense to many because they offer causal links we may have accepted, whether verified or not.|
Story frames are akin to narratives. They tell stories that make sense to many because they offer causal links we may have accepted, whether verified or not. They are constructed like other frames by simplifying and selectively leaving in some parts consistent with our mental models and excluding others. We might think of them as stereotypes of stories because they conserve commonalities while leaving out specifics that make each situation different from others. Story frames may help people make sense of new situations by casting them in the mold of familiar events, but they are as misleading as stereotypes of people. At best, both are averages that ignore or eliminate variations (at worst, they are plain wrong). The variations should lead us to find solutions that work precisely because they are tailored to situation specifics which they are likely to address. In contrast, solutions to story frames are themselves likely to be stereotypical and fail because they miss real problems.
For example, the story frame associated with failing inner-city schools is that their graduates are ill-prepared for college because of lack of resources compared to those available to wealthier school districts. The solution to the problem contained in this story frame is allocation of more resources to the poor schools, although the per capita spending on students in these schools is often larger than in the thriving school districts. Since each school district has different reasons for performing poorly, ideally solutions should address those specific problems. However, the school story frame is broadly shared, which may be one reason why people of good will continue to propose more resources to fix the frame rather than the reality.
Shared frames can be part of epochs or be generational. Some are more lasting than others. They shift slowly over time, partly due to their resistance to new information or lack of a definitive understanding. Nuclear power is still mostly negatively framed despite new technologies that may have reduced or eliminated the basis for some of the objections, and despite the fact that using nuclear energy can help reduce the production of greenhouse gases associated with other energy sources. In contrast, wind farms have mostly kept their positive frame, especially among people who do not live in close proximity to them, despite some negatives including noise pollution, the killing of birds and the difficulty of disposing of their relatively large, unrecyclable fiberglass pallets once obsolete or defective. COVID-19 has shown that redundancy in energy production and transmission modes, low density living, and private car transportation are helpful in some situations, but many believe in getting rid of all, perhaps because climate change frames precede the pandemic and are broadly shared.
Keep in mind that even the negotiation scholars who conduct framing research fall for frames that counter their own prescriptions for negotiations and peaceful conflict resolution. Instructive, but not surprising. Frames are on a long list of cognitive biases, and as such are inescapable even with a conscious effort. But since upholding our own group's views gives us a virtuous feeling, we are unlikely to put up an effort to scrutinize our own frames. Those of us who study and teach approaches to dispute resolution can go to great lengths to legitimize our own frames, even when they are reductionist and divisive. We are, after all, sharing some frames which are pretty resistant to change, like everyone else.
For example, although as a group we counsel peaceful dialogue and discourage use of violence, many of us were upset about the US holding discussions with North Korea, although according to our own prescriptions it was worth a try, to break the decades-old impasse. Negotiation scholars teach that agreements, especially in low-trust situations, should contain contingent clauses—with each side taking a turn at implementing some of the promised actions and waiting for reciprocation—to incentivize the parties to keep with the program. Yet many of us forgot our own prescriptions and supported JPCOA (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a.k.a.,the Iran Nuclear Deal) although at the start of its implementation the US delivered on its promises upfront and was left having to trust Iran to come through on its promises, without any recourse in case of noncompliance. The difference in our attitudes in the two instances can be accounted for at least in part by how we framed the presidents who undertook the actions.
|Questioning or challenging a shared frame is risky and takes courage.|
For many reasons, some mentioned, questioning or challenging a shared frame is risky and takes courage: it signals that challengers may not adhere to a frame otherwise widely shared by the group of which they are members. Other group members may choose to entertain the challenge on its merits and let the best argument carry the day, or to reframe the questioners and drive them out of the group, which is often easier. The "cancel" activity on social media often seems triggered when someone's statements differ ever so slightly from a prevailing frame, let alone challenge it. It does not help that social media uses brief statements prone to being misconstrued, which make the tour of the world before one has the chance to refine or further explain them. The conversational "what do you mean?" that often gives us a chance to clarify to others what we say is absent on social media. Instead, statements are instantly interpreted as signals of who we are and whether we belong in or out of the group.
Complexity and Framing
|Framing is soothing: it creates the illusions of understanding a complex situation and of eliminating uncertainty, which is highly unsettling. Complexity is not a friend of framing, which amounts to simplifying. Framing encourages one-cause, one-effect, and one-solution thinking, as well as thinking by academic disciplines instead of adopting problem-solving, interdisciplinary approaches.|
Framing is soothing: it creates the illusions of understanding a complex situation and of eliminating uncertainty, which is highly unsettling. Complexity is not a friend of framing, which amounts to simplifying. Framing encourages one-cause, one-effect, and one-solution thinking, as well as thinking by academic disciplines instead of adopting problem-solving, interdisciplinary approaches. For example, COVID-19 is framed as an epidemiology problem; therefore, we are enjoined to believe epidemiologists and to discard the input of other professionals. There is loss to all of us from heeding this shared frame and respecting only one profession as a source of information even when it repeatedly proves mistaken. We may implement wrong solutions, ignore feedback, and even create an incentive for the "anointed" profession to fiddle with the science and the data (for example, by altering midstream the way in which cases are counted) in order to make it fit actual outcomes when different from the predictions. We have already seen some of these consequences in the first months of 2020.
Framing is conducive to Manichean thinking—thinking in black-white terms that ignore any shades of gray bound to be present in complex situations. People, events, institutions, and ideas are often collectively framed as either good or bad. Those who frame business owners, lawyers, and police as inherently bad may not stop to think that some of these are their good neighbors or family members whom they know to have more depth than the frame portrayals. Few, if any, people are all good, which is a central message of the Old Testament, where the main characters we know by name are all portrayed as a mix of good and bad—a very early example of realism in the literature. May-June 2020 widespread attacks against statues of historic American figures stem from the expectation that people should have been all good (by current standards), and that any failure makes them all retroactively bad, even when they acted by the norms of their time, which have thankfully changed. Granted, in some cases the bad outweighs the good, but in many other cases we stand to lose the collective memory of those who contributed much to the country even if they were imperfect, as we all are. The current wave of cancel culture is another example of the simplifying effect of frames. It operates like a virus that undermines itself by destroying its hosts too quickly: eventually, since nobody is perfect, cancelling is visited upon its champions.
Our world has always been and continues to be complex and beset by wicked problems difficult to define in ways conducive to solutions, and yielding unexpected negative consequences to our well-intended decisions. Inattention to our frames and those of others exacerbates the wickedness of our problems and deters from our ability to generate effective solutions that can be implemented by consensus.
|We all use sense-making frames and craft instrumental frames to persuade. Can this help us manage our conflicts? The answer is yes!|
We all use sense-making frames and craft instrumental frames to persuade. Beyond the academic interest, can this knowledge be helpful practically in managing our many conflicts at any scale—from interpersonal to societal? These days, as I listen to conversations, watch news, or read newspapers and articles, I find myself thinking of frames, and of how most people do not seem aware of their own and may not recognize that there are other possible frames that make perfect sense to others. I also notice that the polarized frames that appear incompatible tend to be strongly linked to values or even only about values—our own and the others'.
We know from research and experience, that values conflicts cannot be addressed through negotiations and consensus building because values are not negotiable. How, then, do any individuals or groups ever resolve conflicts? Unless there is an expectation that only by aligning values can people make joint decisions, the way in which they arrive at consensus is by finding agreements which are acceptable despite the value differences. Luckily, this is not rare or especially difficult. Negotiators do it all the time, provided they do not focus on value differences, but rather on what they want to happen next. The Public Conversations Project (now called Essential Partners) showed the way with an early example of parties with values at polar opposites regarding abortion rights, who usually can't even countenance talking to each other. The Project engaged them in a discussion, and they discovered that that there were good people on both sides, and that regardless of their values they could all agree on working to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. As we would expect, participants did not emerge from their discussion with altered values regarding abortion. They also did not settle their differences over abortion. Rather, they agreed on something they would all want to see happen next.
We live in a world of seemingly irreconcilable frames, including those involving abortion rights. It seems difficult to engage with people we frame as groups in a variety of derogatory ways and therefore despise. We forget that in order to make any joint decisions, we need most people on board, regardless of how we feel about their values. The focus on value differences cannot serve well the purpose of managing our conflicts in order to make and implement decisions that benefit all or most of us. At a minimum, we should seek to reduce polarization and foster dialogue. When we realize that some of our differences reside in the frames we apply to our joint reality, we might become more cautious in vetting and wielding our own, and in detecting and scrutinizing those of others. Then we might discover ways in which we might bridge some of our differences to make beneficial joint decisions without needing to reconcile all differences.
|We can begin by checking our frames: what have we left out? What is the basis of some of our firmly held beliefs about causes and effects, and about what needs to be done to solve problems? How useful is it in problem solving to group the entire population of the country in two categories by party affiliation and then deem one of the groups unworthy of engagement? Do we like the current paralyzing polarization that prevents any change? Do some of our frames prevent us from heeding one of our own central conflict management tenets that we should focus on interests (many shared) rather than on positions?|
How can knowledge of framing help us practically in engaging with the different others to make and implement joint decisions? It is easier said than done. We can begin by checking our frames: what have we left out? What is the basis of some of our firmly held beliefs about causes and effects, and about what needs to be done to solve problems? How useful is it in problem solving to group the entire population of the country in two categories by party affiliation and then deem one of the groups unworthy of engagement? Do we like the current paralyzing polarization that prevents any change? Do some of our frames prevent us from heeding one of our own central conflict management tenets that we should focus on interests (many shared) rather than on positions? We need to remember other tenets, such as that you can't always negotiate with people you like, and it is not necessary to like them in order to come to an agreement; but it helps to understand where they are coming from, in order to propose solutions they might accept. Currently, we tend to cut our noses to spite our faces: we'd often rather not get something we want than get it with the help of despicable others. Mutually advantageous tradeoffs and concessions are helpful when not framed as losses.
There are no general recipes for strategies and actions that work in every case. Scrutiny of our own frames and willingness to understand others' beyond our and their frames is hard work. So is the work of detecting and understanding others' frames, of both the sense-making and instrumental kinds. Therefore, we do not need to detect our every frame to submit it to in-depth evaluation. We also do not need to investigate every frame we think the others are applying to a situation at hand. Rather, we need selective self-awareness, and awareness of the others' frames, when it really matters. However, unless we know this is necessary for resolving our conflicts, it will never happen.
I invite readers to consider the concept of framing, and whether awareness of how we and others use it can contribute to depolarization, mutual understanding, and productive dialogue. Can such awareness help us meet the challenge of crafting a society in which people with different and often contradictory and even antithetical worldviews can coexist in a spirit of tolerance, respect, and, when situations like the COVID pandemic warrant it, mutual aid? Understanding framing differences and finding ways to live with them may be key to addressing many of our current and future collective challenges.
Note: Sanda, together with Michael Elliott and Deborah Shmueli wrote wrote an earlier article on Framing for BI: Frames, Framing and Reframing which is also very useful for understanding how framing is used and abused.
 This may well be due to the fact that social scientists have long used these characteristics for measurable proxies of individual and group differences which cannot be easily captured directly. In time, the proxies may have taken the place of the variables they were supposed to represent. We now attribute arguably unwarranted meaning to these proxies, which have become building blocks of our frames.
 The term black swan was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to designate events and facts which, having never experienced them, we believe to be impossible until they occur.
 Note that it is always less likely to have two events happen together than each one singly. However, one of our judgmental biases leads us to overlook this fact, especially when the two events seem causally related so it makes sense to us that they should happen at the same time.
 Now it seems coffee is health food up to 6 cups a day; butter substitutes are less healthy than butter; coconut oil is making progress from “pure poison” to healthy status; and (for the moment) saccharine won’t kill us.
 A recent COVID-related article published in Lancet and then withdrawn has undermined trust built over decades in this preeminent medical journal, as well as trust in medical recommendations. The refusal to wear masks although they may reduce COVID infections is due in part to this loss of trust.
 For the United States millions of deaths were predicted at the beginning of the pandemic. Some still “hold the hope” that the future will prove them right.
 By July 5, 2020, confirmed COVID deaths in the state of New York (31,860) exceed the sum of California (6,329), Florida (3,701) and Texas (2,646).
 No, that distance is not social-it really is physical! Europeans call it correctly.
 The pandemic has driven me to spend a lot more time than usual on social media. Please interpret it as a research project. I have observed strong homophily and both cognitive and instrumental framing-related activity. I can only hope (but know it’s in vain) that people do not get their news from social media.
 For example, the total spending per pupil in New York City in 2020 was $28,000 (before the pandemic). This is more than the state average of $19,000, some other school districts in the state, which have better student outcomes, and the national average of $11,5000.
 Anatol Rapoport has coined the term pessimization to describe the search for optimal solutions to the wrong problem.
 Term coined by Rittel and Webber in 1973
 Relatively recent examples include the failure of Congress to resolve the Dreamers’ status or to implement police reforms. Both can be traced at least in part to inability to deal with those framed as having unacceptable values.