Framing for the Velcro Memory

Is human memory more like a filing cabinet or like Velcro?

The answer to this question has significant implications for experts and advocates looking to shift the public conversation on social issues.

The Heath brothers, in “Made to Stick,” state that the brain stores information more like hooks in Velcro than like empty file folders in a cabinet.

They write:

“If you look at the two sides of the Velcro material, you’ll see that one is covered with tiny hooks and the other is covered with thousands of tiny loops. When you press the two sides together, a huge number of hooks gets snagged inside the loops, and that ‘s what causes Velcro to seal.”

Your brain hosts a truly staggering number of loops.  The more hooks an idea has, the better it will cling to memory.” (Made to Stick, p. 110-111)

So how can advocates and experts make their ideas more “sticky”? How can we make sure that social issues are understood, remembered, and have a lasting impact on the public’s attitudes and behaviors?

We make social issues more sticky through strategic framing.

We present ideas and stories about social issues that make them concrete, understandable, and meaningful. With strategic framing, we give our ideas “hooks” that enable them to be memorable in the public consciousness.

To evaluate whether your organization has a sticky message, consider the following questions as part of your strategic framing checklist:

  • Did you introduce the social issue by using a value that illustrates why the public should care?
  • Did you broaden and deepen understanding of the social issue by using a tested explanatory metaphor?
  • Did you signal early in your message that solutions exist? Do the solutions “fit” the problem as defined?
  • Did you inspire optimism and give evidence that the situation can be improved? Did you establish the cause of the problem, and did you assign responsibility?
  • Did you simply and effectively put the problem in context and explain long-term consequences, trends and opportunities to resolve the problem?

Pay attention to these key questions and create hooks for your social issues to make them memorable in public discourse.




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