Monday, February 12, 2024

How Our Society Is Shaped by the Framing of Collective Thinking

by Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

Promoting, understanding and analyzing “thinking” is an important endeavor of the Rapera movement.  This is because the power of collective thinking is often underestimated and overlooked in its influence on shaping societies. I believe society in general is unaware of its pervasive influence. Our thoughts, beliefs, and values as a society are not merely individual constructs but are deeply influenced by the way they are framed collectively. The framing of collective thinking embodies the narratives, ideologies, and perspectives that shape our understanding of the world. In this article, I will explore how our society is profoundly affected by the way our collective thinking is framed and the implications this has for our social, political, and cultural landscape.

One of the most important conduits through which collective thinking is framed is the media. Mass media, including television, radio, newspapers, and digital platforms, have an unparalleled impact on shaping public opinion. The way issues are presented, the narratives that are emphasized, and the voices that are amplified all play a pivotal role in shaping our collective understanding of the world. This is an important fact for policy makers, reformists and organizations involved in change dynamics to keep in mind.

Media outlets can frame issues in various ways, emphasizing different aspects of a story, and thereby influencing public perception. For instance, the framing of a behavior done in the name of religion as either a dangerous extreme behaviour or a normal religious behaviour can lead to starkly different public reactions. The way media frames these events has a direct impact on how society perceives them, often influencing support or opposition to the causes at hand.

Furthermore, the media's selection of news stories and their placement within the news can prioritize certain issues over others. This can lead to a lopsided focus on certain topics, while ignoring others that may be equally or more important. Such framing choices can have far-reaching consequences on societal priorities, influencing public discourse and policy decisions.

Politics is another area where the framing of collective thinking is particularly potent. Politicians and political parties use framing techniques to influence public opinion and garner support for their agendas. This often involves framing issues in ways that resonate with their base or appeal to a broader audience. Politicians may try to create the kind of thinking they want to achieve their agenda by using the framing technique. For example, a party that is race based or religious based may frame diversity of race and religion as a threat to their own race or religion.

One common framing strategy is the use of emotionally charged language and rhetoric. By framing issues in a way that elicits strong emotional responses, politicians can mobilize their supporters and galvanize public opinion. This can sometimes lead to a polarization of society, as different political factions use opposing frames to advance their own interests. The Nation of course may be split asunder merely to accommodate the political quest for power.

In addition to emotional framing, the selective presentation of facts and statistics is another powerful tool in political framing. Politicians and interest groups may cherry-pick data that supports their positions while ignoring or discrediting data that contradicts their narratives. This selective framing can make it difficult for the public to make informed decisions and contributes to the spread of misinformation.

Collective thinking is also framed by cultural and social influences. Our cultural norms, values, and traditions shape our worldview and influence our beliefs and behaviors. These cultural frameworks are often deeply ingrained and can be difficult to challenge or change. Social institutions, such as family, schools, religious organizations, and community groups, also play a role in framing collective thinking. These institutions transmit values and beliefs from one generation to the next, reinforcing societal norms and expectations. For example, the way history is taught in schools can frame the collective understanding of a nation's past and its impact on the present. It is not exaggerative to say that the nature of the collective thinking will determine whether the society will progress or regress in the future. 

In the digital age, technology and social media platforms have become significant players in framing collective thinking. Social media algorithms often prioritize content that aligns with a user's existing beliefs, creating echo chambers where people are exposed to information that confirms their preconceptions. This reinforcement of existing beliefs can contribute to polarization and limit exposure to diverse perspectives.

Furthermore, the rapid spread of information on social media platforms can lead to the viral dissemination of both accurate and false information. The way a piece of information is framed can determine whether it goes viral or is debunked. This phenomenon has significant consequences for public opinion, as false or misleading information can spread rapidly and shape collective thinking.

Undeniably, our society is influenced by the way our collective thinking is framed. From media and communication to politics, culture, and technology, various factors contribute to the framing of our collective consciousness. Recognizing the power of framing is essential for understanding how societal norms, beliefs, and values are shaped and perpetuated. 

As individuals, it is important to critically evaluate the framing of information and be mindful of the influences that shape our thinking. By engaging with diverse perspectives, questioning dominant narratives, and seeking out reliable sources of information, we can contribute to a more informed and balanced collective consciousness. Additionally, holding media outlets, politicians, and institutions accountable for the way they frame issues can help ensure a more transparent and equitable shaping of our society's collective thinking. Let’s not forget that as a Nation, we become what we think we are.


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