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Legislative Advocacy: A Cognitive Approach Charles R. Dyer Equal Justice Conference May 6, 2008 Copyright Charles R. Dyer 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Legislative Advocacy: A Cognitive Approach Charles R. Dyer Equal Justice Conference May 6, 2008 Copyright Charles R. Dyer 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Legislative Advocacy: A Cognitive Approach Charles R. Dyer Equal Justice Conference May 6, 2008 Copyright Charles R. Dyer 2008

2 Getting to the point: This is a crash course. This is not a full blown workshop on legislative advocacy. For details on how to begin and pointers on things you should do, see the first book on my list of resources. I am going to tell you what you need to know to close the deal. Our example: A legislative visit.

3 What Neuroscience says We react instinctively before we react rationally. Fastest volitional response: 160 ms. Fastest unconscious response: 10 ms. Learning is repetition until a volitional act becomes a routine, a habit, a skill, a core value. Feelings and emotions precede values. Values precede reason. Reason without appeal to ones underlying values, emotions, and feelings is unconvincing.

4 Cognitive Linguistics says Our abstract concepts are based on metaphors from concrete concepts. The economy is rising. The lower classes. Come to the point. The future is in front of you. Our abstract values also borrow from our concrete values. The nation is a family.

5 A Visit to a Legislator How can you present your case so that it is convincing in a very short time? No time for evidence or affidavits.

6 Start with a friendly face. Bring someone who is: A member of the same party as the legislator. Influential, E.g., judge, or bar leader. And/or on personal terms with the legislator. And/or a major contributor to the legislator or the party.

7 Maximize feelings (positive or negative) Choose positive or negative approach based on legislators value system. Start with a story. Tell the story in different modalities. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Or, if you know the legislator well, use his or her preferred modality.

8 Elements of a Good Story Structure: Our brains expect narrative that can be readily understood, told, and retold. Protagonists and Antagonists, standing for the values being pushed for and against, respectively. Coherence, requiring few leaps of inference so that the plot line is clear. A clear moral.

9 Elements of a Good Story, cont. A good story is Vivid and memorable. Moving. A good story has central elements that are readily visualized, to maximize its memorability and emotional impact. A good story is rich in metaphor, so that: it is emotionally evocative, and it creates and reinforces its intended analogies.

10 Elements of a Good Story, cont. A good story takes elements of the oppositions story, including its metaphors, and recasts them as its own. Finally, if a part of the master narrative, the story should be one its framers would tell their children, because it should be: clear and compelling and central to the understanding of right and wrong that comes from internalizing the values it embodies.

11 Pick the Proper Frame Match the legislators political views. Negative: Mostly conservative. Appealing to fear. Hobbes. People are essentially bad and must be controlled. Positive: Mostly liberal. Appealing to hope. Locke, Jefferson. People are essentially good and should be supported.

12 Add Values: Lakoffs Family Metaphor Folk Theory Conservatives use Strict Father Model. Moral Strength, Moral Authority, Moral Order, Moral Boundaries, Moral Essence, Moral Wholeness, Moral Purity, Moral Health. Then Moral Self- Interest. Then Moral Nurturance. Liberals use Nurturant Parent Model. Nurturance Group: Empathy, Social ties, Self-Development Then Moral Self-Interest Then Moral Strength: Social Responsibility, Generosity, Respect for Others, etc.

13 Caveat: Branding Brand your legislation, if you can. Possible Negative, Strict Father Brands: Self Help Law and Order Bill Preventing Chaos in the Courts Bill Possible Positive, Nurturant Parent Brands: Accessible Justice Bill Possible Mixed Brand: Creating Justice and Order Bill

14 Illustrate Principles Use policy positions to illustrate principles, not the other way around.

15 Negative Framing of a Positive Bill Discuss the fallout for failure to obtain funding in terms of the frame: E.g., increased lawlessness, loss of moral order. Connect to a story showing the downside.

16 Manage Opposition Arguments Openly mention likely opposition. Stick to specific opposition, e.g., resistance of the bar. Avoid general opposition, e.g., no taxers, as it gets you off frame. Discuss oppositions problems within the frame you are using. Discuss efforts to quell their issues.

17 Give the policy wonk stuff last. Close with the statistics, so that they do not get in the way of presenting the values.

18 Close the deal If the legislator is encouraging, say, Were glad we all see eye to eye. If the legislator is ambivalent, say, We hope youll come to see this as we see it. If the legislator is negative, say, Thank you for allowing us to present our point of view.

19 All this and more This presentation and other materials are available at

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