Strict Father And Nurturant Parenting Styles: Metaphors For Political Ideologies with George Lakoff, Ph.D.

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George Lakoff compares two opposing political ideologies with two distinct parenting styles. He explains that the strict disciplinarian parent parallels conservative ideology, and the nurturant empathetic parent parallels progressive ideology. Lakoff identifies the strengths and weaknesses in these two communication systems and the framing of their messages. Lakoff’s research has determined that framing matters because it unconsciously rules perception. Morality and freedom become the ultimate message in each ideology, but the framing of these concepts varies. For example, Lakoff writes that all politics has a moral base, but each political ideology frames its message of morality differently. He explains that the strict father model holds discipline and morality to be inseparable. The logic behind that assertion is “that if you become internally disciplined, you can go out into the world and become prosperous…If you’re not disciplined, you can’t be moral, so you deserve your poverty.” Conversely, the nurturant family model teaches empathy and social responsibility: “parents want their children to empathize with others, be able to take care of themselves and others, and want other people to be fulfilled in life.” Lakoff insists that developing an effective communication system is critical to expressing a clear message, especially in this divisive political society. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


George Lakoff, Ph.D. is a renowned linguist and cognitive scientist, and one of the country’s leading experts on the framing of political discourse. He is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan.

He’s the author of numerous books on politics including:

To learn more about the work of George Lakoff go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is the Strict Father model
  • What is the Nurturant Parent model
  • What are “frames”
  • How is freedom framed within politics
  • What is the moral hierarchy
  • By what are we governed throughout our lives
  • What happens when you hear facts you don’t understand
  • How do our brains process facts
  • Why do some messages stick when others don’t
  • What do family values have to do with politics
  • Is there an ideological middle
  • What is the difference between social and personal responsibility
  • What effect do polls have on political messages
  • What do politics and marketing have in common

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 12/16/2014   Program Number: 3530

Music Playlist

Album: Journey Between
Artist: Baka Beyond
1998 Rycodisk – Hannibal #HNCD 1415

Opening Essay: Track 05 Cotu
Music Break 1: Track 04 Land's End
Music Break 2: Track 06 Konti
Music Break 3: Track 08 Queen of Ngorongoro