Thursday, January 14, 2010

Words Matter

Brad Plumer and Julia Whitty bring us the results of a neat social psychology experiment which proves that people are dumb framing is really important. Brad’s summary:

Test subjects were broken up into two groups, and each group was allowed to pick between pricier and cheaper versions of various items like airline tickets. Group A was told that the more expensive items included the price of a “carbon tax,” whose proceeds would go toward clean-energy development. Group B was told that the costlier items included the price of a “carbon offset,” whose proceeds would go toward clean-energy development. Exact same policy, just different names for each.

You can guess what happened next. In the “offset” group, Democrats, Republicans, and independents all flocked toward the pricier item. They were perfectly happy to pay an extra surcharge to fund CO2 reduction—even Republicans gushed about the benefits of doing so. Not only that, but most of the group supported making the surcharge mandatory. In the “tax” group, however, Democrats were the only ones willing to pay for the costlier item. Republicans in this group were much more inclined to grumble about how much more expensive the tax made things.

1 comment:

  1. I *love* language. It is music to me. Yet, sometimes even I get ticked off at the power we assign to words. As a kid I'd get backhanded for saying the word 'hell' yet I could say heck all I wanted. *They both mean the same thing*! You say 'change' in a church and they run for the door. We are the ones who assign power to a word. Sometimes it bites us in the as... *ahem* backside.