Only seniors and aging baby boomers strongly support preserving the historic meaning of marriage. In 20 years, they will be gone. Younger Americans—particularly “Millennials” under age 35—have shifted decidedly in favor of abolishing marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. This generation will shape America to 2050 and beyond.
For this generation, the arguments of marriage revisionists have not been countered. Better arguments from natural law, while necessary and helpful, are unlikely to turn the tide of opinion because many people are not convinced rationally in the first place: television, songs, friends, and their own experiences shape their understanding of love and marriage. In short, we are shaped by unconscious influences, social and personal narratives, and emotion.
A John Jay Institute paper explores findings from a growing body of research from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and narrative theory to inform how to take a more sophisticated approach to communicating in the marriage debate. It offers new opportunities for understanding, developing, and using persuasion informed by cognitive science and narrative theory to advance traditional marriage and counter marriage revisionism.
The point of this primer is simple: communication is key to reframing the debate, and key to a healthy marriage culture.
Moral judgment is intuitive and influenced by unconscious emotional processes rather than a cerebral affair in which people dispassionately weight concerns about harm, rights and justice. A rationalist presumes that people should elevate reason and logic to suppress emotion, but an intuitionist understands that intuitions come first and strategic reasoning second. Hence, while pro-marriage messaging should be logically sound, it must also be psychologically sound.
People use systems of metaphor often unconsciously, to reason in political debate. Metaphorical thinking facilitates abstract reasoning by transferring knowledge about concrete things to abstract things. Marriage advocates must be the poets of new political metaphors by using new terms to articulate their positions.
You can read the primer in full at this link.