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The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics
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The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  675 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
A groundbreaking scientific examination of the way our brains understand politics from a "New York Times" bestselling author
One of the world 's best-known linguists and cognitive scientists, George Lakoff has a knack for making science make sense for general readers. In his new book, Lakoff spells out what cognitive science has discovered about reason, and reveals that hu
ebook, 304 pages
Published May 29th 2008 by Penguin Books
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Jan 06, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very important book for progressives to read. Cognitive sciences are showing how our brains organize concepts results in consequences for politics. Most people's brains have developed in ways that can respond to terminology in a way that can activate emotional responses either consistent with conservative attitudes or progressive attitudes. The more times one version is activated by terminology, the more the strength of the structures supporting that view become. Therefore, the termino ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Blayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-at-library
Lakoff, a cognitive scientist, looks at 30 years of scientific research on the human brain, and asks some political questions. What he finds is the political divide is “not just in geography, religion or even power”, it in our heads (no pun intended).

Our country was born from the age of Enlightenment when reason was king, and emotion was irrelevant. Emotions were seen as just cluttering the issue at hand. The idea an educated, well informed, rational society will make rational, logical, fact bas
John David
I was drawn to this book mostly because I knew of the author’s reputation as a cognitive scientist and as someone who was known for spelling out how cognitive science overlaps with, and largely explains, many of the phenomena that we recognize as falling along the left-right spectrum of political ideologies. And Lakoff certainly does offer some insights into how thinking occurs, and what in particular is unique about the way we think about political issues.

Lakoff’s main idea, which should be app
(audio book) First off, I can't recommend this book as an audio book. Its densely academic writing style requires way too much brain power to process, especially while driving. But if I hadn't been listening to the audio book, I probably wouldn't have finished the book. What the book has in academic writing style, it seems to lack in academic proof. Perhaps the print copy has citations, but mostly what I heard was a complex narrative based on unproven axioms.

Here's what I did get out of the boo
Dec 01, 2014 Tomislav rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I read this book because it was chosen by a (face-to-face) book club I belong to, and I believed it to be a science read. My initial response was great disappointment, because this is very much a book of politics rather than science. So you know where I'm coming from, I should explain that I am a biomedical engineer working in the field of magnetic resonance imaging. Going back to childhood, my favorite subjects were math and art, and I began eschewing social studies in high school. At this poin ...more
Alex Lee
I was first introduced to George Lakoff through his work in 2nd language acquisition. His thoughts and work in that area was quite impressive, so when I ran across this book I was eager to look into it.

First let me say that this book isn't really academic. Yes, it is written by an academic, but it's also meant for general consumption. I didn't read the reviews below before reading this book, but in skimming them, I am surprised by how people had to mention how academic it was or how technical it
Steven Peterson
This is one of those books that sets off conflicting emotions and thoughts. The application of knowledge of the brain sciences to political debate is absolutely fascinating, and much good information is presented. Another part of the thesis--that "progressives" or liberals use an "Enlightenment" model of discourse (emphasizing the use of logic and reason to advance their points) whereas conservatives use a more powerful approach, wedding emotion to thought. Hence, conservatives have an advantage ...more
Friend suggested I read this. While I disagree with the author's attempts at rebuking the use of game theory in economics, it was otherwise an insightful read
May 17, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know, I think I lost this book. I was about 7/8 of the way through it, and I think I left it somewhere. It's either on an airplane or in my childhood bedroom in MN where I spent a night in April.

Oh well, I hope someone else reads it because it was great! It was helpful for understanding how and why people vote the way they do(often against their own economic interests).

I studied metaphor in professional writing for part of my thesis, and this book helped me understand how metaphor works at t
Terry Amrhein
Jun 05, 2015 Terry Amrhein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Political Mind attempts to explain how people think. The idea is that people think using frames and metaphors that are stored in the circuits in the brain. When people communicate, these circuits are opened up allowing these frames to occur in the people's minds. The frames and metaphors are developed over time by a person's experiences particularly as a youth. So Lakoff explains that a person who was raised with a strict father, will develop frames of "self-discipline" and "obeying authorit ...more
Austin Barselau
This is more a pastiche than a unified presentation of the cognitive mechanisms that give rise to political thoughts. This book is larded with liberal rallying points, with the author showing no remorse in his sweeping criticisms of Bush and the conservative worldview. After laying into conservative thought, he jumps off into the deep end with technical analysis of the "New Enlightenment" pattern of thinking rife with allusions to game and prospect theory, and complex descriptions of rational ac ...more
Greg Price
Well researched and reasoned, but I have a couple of gripes.

First, as a Center-Left independent, I occasionally detect a streak of idiological zealotry in the author. As an example, he defines the moral basis of progressivism as "empathy, protection, and empowerment".


In one section, he briefly touches on the issue of abortion. He defines the positions as progressives being pro-"choice" (meaning pro-abortion at will) based on empathy and the protection and empowerment of the mother.

He the
Dec 24, 2010 Marty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is a sampling of the provocative ideas in this mostly readable, occasionally inscrutable, book: words matter in politics; repeated exposure to political metaphors actually changes the brain chemistry; humans are hard-wired for empathy and cooperation; there are two uber-metaphors that distinguish conservatives (father as authoritarian) from progressives (family as protective and nurturing); conservative thinkers in particular have waged successful "cognitive campaigns" that predate policy i ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The psychology of the mind and how we operate is always a fascinating subject, but I suppose I was expecting more. Lakoff is clearly a "progressive," and it shows. Not that that's a bad thing, but I think the book would have benefited from being more balanced and accessible from a wider variety of political perspectives. But maybe that's what he wanted - this should only be a tool to be used by progressives for furthering their agenda, since he believes that conservatives have already done a gre ...more
Mar 17, 2010 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young politicians, Progressive thinkers, Constitutionalists, Debaters
It is no shocker that fear mongering has become an all too acceptable part of our American Political system. Yet, as Lakoff explains in A Political Mind, the rousing emotions that scare tactics shoot for and have been so successful for conservatives in recent years can also be applied to progressive arguments, albeit without the element of fear.

By explaining how our brain perceives arguments, especially those which we process unconsciously, Lakoff demonstrates that our political mind is part of
Nov 08, 2008 Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changes everything. It's about language and politics and how the brain's structure shapes and structures morality. It gives tools to rethink everything. And it explains how politics is not based on rational arguments and positions, but on comprehensive, unconscious and differing visions of society as a family, which is the brain's basic frame of reference for authority. Bush acted as a strong paterfamilias that knows best and acts without consulting his "children," who were expected to ...more
Todd Martin
If you’ve read other books by George Lakoff, you’ll be familiar with much of the material found in The Political Mind. Lakoff first describes philosophical theories of rational thought developed during the enlightenment and describes why facts and figures often fail to sway public opinion (I would add that this seems particularly true with those whose critical thinking skills are undeveloped … i.e. most people). He then revisits the concept of framing and how proper use of frames can trigger ass ...more
Christine Theberge Rafal
This important book furthers the ideas from _Don't Think of An Elephant_ but has a little more to say about what to do about it. In brief, the idea that much of the way we think is based in metaphors that are activated by things that typically co-occur in our lives, especially our early lives (p. 256 finally gives a more satisfying discussion of this than either Elephant or _Metaphors we Live By_ had). He claims the American nation-as-family metaphor yields distinctly different thought systems: ...more
Dec 25, 2009 Asher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy this book so far. I think it gives some very good incite into cognitive science as well as the nature of American politics.
Through the book the author George Lakoff repeats the point that the old enlightenment way of seeing rationality as mathematical and objective is wrong, and that all acts of rationality and logic have an essence of subjectivity. Being that every mind sees the world in a different frame.
What he means by mean a frame is the narrative we put our world into.
David Robins
This book is a poisonous screed. I felt sick to my stomach reading it. I had hoped to learn something from what the author had to say about how the brain works, but there was so much propaganda, lies, leaps of illogic, and smug assumption of unsupported and unsupportable statist political theories that I couldn't get through it. It presents the state as the only moral agent and individual rights as worthless except to be subverted. American history is rewritten from whole cloth on every page.

Lakoff applies knowledge from cognitive science to argue that progressives are losing to conservatives in US politics because of a failure to understand human information processing and the language frames, narratives, and metaphors that, through repetition, become coded into the neural structure of our brains and which we use to make sense of the world. Really interesting and largely accessible for a general audience.
Sean Chick
Normally I would rate this book higher. I like most of what Lakoff has to say and I am familiar with his work. Yet, the prose here is weak. The Enlightenment is mischaracterized and undermined (only passing references are made to what a great leap forward it was in our understanding of the world). Strangest of all, Lakoff, even as he bashes Enlightenment thinking, argues for it. He thinks we need to recognize our cognitive bias and overcome it; what could be more Age of Reason inspired than that ...more
Jun 28, 2010 Natasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lakoff does a fine job outlining the framing used by the political right that gives them an edge in media over the left - and how progressives tend to undermine their own arguments by using the right's frames.

Using a foundation of cognitive neuropsychology, Lakoff explains what happens at the level of neurons when we hear phrases like "war on terror" repeatedly, and how other neural pathways (like perceiving 9/11 as a crime necessitating police action, as it was originally conceived) cannot be a
Terry Heller
Political books tend to age very quickly and very poorly. Through no real fault of its own, this book, which was published prior to the 2008 presidential election, acutely discusses the parties' mindsets in very broad terms, but, in late 2011, the reader is left wondering how the rise of the Tea Party, and particularly the split between the Tea Baggers and the mainstream Republican party, relates to their different view of the world.

Other than that, the book is fine. If I have one substantive cr
May 24, 2011 Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rantings of a flaming liberal. I didn't expect this to be an agenda-driven book. I've finished two chapters, and I guess since he's addressing a liberal readership he doesn't feel much of a need to defend his beliefs. Plus he doesn't believe in the universality of logic (outdated, First Enlightenment assumption) he thus doesn't use logic to make his case, he just structures the debate in his own favor.

So he is practicing what he is preaching. He cherry-picks Adam Smith (he is the revisionist, no
Heather Denkmire
Wow, I wish everyone in the country could read this book. Or, at least about 3/4 of it. Some of it I'll admit got a little Charlie Brown adult voice on me (game theory, and Chomsky's linguistics). But truly, I think this is the key to saving our Democracy. Reframing and not hiding from the progressive values of empathy and empowerment. Amazing stuff. It also helped me understand some people I know who think in the strict father model (as I'm about 100% nurturing parent model). I loved learning a ...more
Jul 31, 2012 Dzlanique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating book provides an examination of cognition and discusses its impact on the American political system from a progressive perspective. Since my college years over a decade ago, I've read research stating that socialization,ideological frameworks, value systems and emotions are guiding forces behind the American vote,not reason (exclusively...or dominantly).What is new and interesting to me is the discussion regarding conservative vs. progressive frameworks and how they are used,mis ...more
Dec 30, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lakoff describes the metaphorical/structural/neurological basis for political thought with the idea of teaching progressives how to reframe arguments in order to bring progressive thought back into the American mainstream. (The new edition came out before Obama was elected; however, despite his election I would say that progressive ideas are still very far from mainstream in this country.)

I wish I'd read this before Pinker, because Lakoff describes some of these ideas more simply and less techn
Dec 03, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was overall good. It demonstrated the importance of frames, metaphors and language in modern political thought along with the need for "New Enlightenment" thinking. The book was, however, repetitive. Lakoff presses the need for a new way of thinking and how it applies to a progressive America which, while important, makes parts of the book seem like a PSA for liberalism. When his ideas become more complex the repetitiveness of Lakoff's message makes it easier to understand so it all wor ...more
Mike Edwards
Lakoff argues that the brain is hardwired to favor emotional and moral appeals over intellectual or rational ones. He applies this to modern politics to assert that the GOP has done a much better job of framing issues in emotional or moral ways, and that this explains how they have been dramatically more successful than their Democratic counterparts over the last twenty years or so. The book does an excellent job of explaining why humans have difficulty in changing their minds in response to int ...more
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George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and is one of the founders of the field of cognitive science.

He is author of The New York Times bestseller Don't Think of an Elephant!, as well as Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Whose Freedom?, and many other books and articles on cognitive science and ling
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“The biology of empathy allows us to comprehend our connection to each other, to other living things, and to the physical world that supports life.” 11 likes
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