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Does Context Affect How We Understand Our World?

August 2, 2009

I’ve posted two different excerpts from an ABC News special in which President Obama answers a woman’s question about her 99-year-old mother receiving a pacemaker. The woman’s mother is now 105. With the ongoing debate on nationalizing health care, President Obama’s “take a pain pill instead” remark has widely been reported. Regardless of your stance on the specific issue of health care, I want you to see how context can affect understanding. If you like, watch both of these popular edited excerpts from YouTube and respond to one of the discussion topics below:

Excerpt 1:

Excerpt 2:

So what do you think?….

1. Was your understanding of the President’s responses different in each video? How did context affect your understanding of the President’s responses?

2. Can you generalize how the context of information affects how we respond to this information within our social environment? Do we assign different meanings to different words or behaviors? Do different values and norms mean we ignore some information and prioritize other?

3. Do these videos illustrate the impact media may have upon members of society? How?

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4 comments

  1. 1.Yes. In the first video it seemed he was more for taking medication than a unneeded surgery. But, in the second video he sayed to go ahead with the surgery to save time.

    3. Yes. The President essientially said the same thing, but the ways he said them made it seem he gave Mrs. Sturm two different answers for the same question. Though it seemed it couldv’e been the way the videos were edited.


  2. 1. In the first video, the president seemed to be more for the pain killers and in order not to risk the surgery. But then in the second video, Mrs. Sturm made a comment on it being cheaper in the long run to have the surgery than rather pay all of the medical bills that would pile up and it made the president change his answer up a little.

    2. I don’t think anybody should be more important than anyone else. But in some cases you do have to make some changes for people because of there sitiuation. I think that is just human nature for people to feel more reluctant towards people that dont act like they have a care in the world rather than someone wanting to live long enough to see there children get married or see there first grandchild. In that case, I could see people trying harder to save there life than someone who doesn’t care to live.


  3. 1. Yes. In one reponse he was against using unnecessary treatment if it wasn’t going to help the condition.(b) the other response was in favor of the treatment once it was known that treatment works and is cheaper.

    3. Yes. A play on words was used in the giving of his opinions almost similar but a little different.


  4. Both videos clearly did not provide enough for me to make a decision of what he meant. He started the conversation and was eventually cut-off. However given the opportunity to review the session in it’s entirety I’m sure I would be able to make a decision.



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