Framing Theory(Chong & Druckman)

We are quite familiar with this theory by now, aren’t we?

Albert Hirschmann  said that having opinions is important for a person’s well being. In fact, he goes on to expound this point by pointing out that “Vacillation, indifference or weakly held opinions have long met with utmost contempt, while approval and admiration have been bestowed on firmness, fullness, and articulation of opinion.”

So how does opinion have anything to do with the framing theory? Well, let me explain. Democracy requires citizens to vote and choose their leaders. And citizens have opinions. The big problem, as was seen in studies by Converse and Zaller shows that having opinions that are “stable, consistent, informed and connected to abstract principles and values” are a rarity. In fact, public opinion is fickle and is easily manipulated.

How are opinions manipulated? Glad you asked. Framing is the key. The main idea behind framing is the understanding that “an issue can be viewed from a variety of perspective and be construed as having implications for multiple values or considerations.”

Depending how you frame it, the picture above can be a man playing the horn, or it  can be a silhouette of a woman. By manipulating the frames, you can “affect attitudes and behaviours of audiences.” The term “framing effect” is typically used in reference to the communications of the elites to affect and influence the frames and attitudes of the public.

But where the framing effect works best when there is only a singular frame put forward by the elite, framing effects tend to lessen when  there are competing frames. Public opinion and attitudes tend to be more cautious once there are competing frames as they now are able to weigh the issue accordingly.

Framing that goes against a persons beliefs are also discarded. People with strong attitudes will most likely choose the frames that are aligned to their on beliefs, indulging in what Lodge and Taber call “motivated reasoning”, where the person accepts certain frames according to predispositions and reject or devalue frames that go against their own values.

But framing isnt all bad. Sometimes framing something in a certain way helps to define social norms. Many people go around downloading free movies of the internet without thinking about the consequences. Recent framing of Movie piracy as an illegal act that hampers creativity and hurts the future of movies have made people rethink their actions. In a way, framing can teach us right from wrong, or in this case, what society views as right or wrong.

So how do you figure? Is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?

References

Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2007). Framing theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 1(10), 103-126.

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10 comments so far

  1. snowkinz on

    i feel that framing is is a double edge sword that anyone with skill can use it to their advantage. the media can use it for good or… they can just tell one side of the story to lead us in the other direction. it is not just media or politics that uses framing, everyone around us does. People tend to take out the bad and talk about the good of themselves. and if they want to do someone harm, they can take out the good and talk all bad!

    It is up to the morals of the person to talk the truth or cover up the truth.

    which makes this world seem a bit more scarier now that we know how framing works. ~.~

  2. leothg on

    Before understanding the theory of framing, I always accept news information, politics or even documentaries as what they were shown in the television. True, sometimes i will ask, “Wah! Why they need to exaggerate this news so much?!”, but ultimately i will still accept them as information received.

    It is when i know about the term, “Framing”, that makes me rethink about all the past media, news, political information. The way in which they are represented, presented to make the ‘fact’ real, or at least to the audiences who are watching on the television.

    But i don’t really agree that framing is the root of all evil, i feel that framing is just a technique, a way to shape things and present them. Yes i agree totally that framing manipulates public opinion, as we very much rely on publication, news, media for information. However that does not mean that all of us are being manipulated, if our opinions are so easily manipulated there will be no use for politicians, investigators, lawyers. We will all be living in a world of communism.

    “There is more to than meets the eye”

    Framing in terms, help us to think and learn of the social norms in the society, research and investigate on the issues, and finally understand the real meaning/reason behind the topic.

    So well, I feel that framing help us to better understand things. But i have to agree with snowkinz, “…this world seem a bit more scarier now that we know how framing works.”

  3. agneslpy on

    I personally think that framing isn’t really bad. It actually depends how one uses ‘framing’ to portray information or news. As mentioned in your post, it can be used to change someone’s perspectives on matters on movie piracy. However it could also be used by someone to deliberately ‘not show’ some facts and to lead others in thinking in a particular way.

    I agree that framing effects tends to lessen when there are competing frames. A singular frame may be put forward by the elites and public attitudes and opinions maybe affected but as technology advances, the social media becomes another source where another perspective of the issue can be obtained.

    As compared to maybe 15 years ago where technology is not all that advanced, the mainstream media frames the messages in their way and communicates it to the audience in one-way. At that time, framing might have a larger impact on the public opinion and attitudes as compared to now. With the internet and social media platforms, people discusses issues and are more skeptical to any news or information that they received as compared to a decade back. I think that framing is just a way to portray issues or information but the way it is used can generate positive or negative results.

  4. janisuhoshi on

    “The big problem, as was seen in studies by Converse and Zaller shows that having opinions that are ‘stable, consistent, informed and connected to abstract principles and values’ are a rarity. In fact, public opinion is fickle and is easily manipulated.”

    The above statement seems to imply that people as weak-minded and easily swayed. I beg to differ. People are not that easily influenced or manipulated because we have tendency to be biased due to our predispositions about certain issues.

    In the paper, Chong & Druckman (2007) mentioned that there are moderators that mitigate framing effects on people’s opinions. One of them is “individual predispositions” such as moral values (Druckman 2001c, p. 241; Haider-Markel & Joslyn 2001; Edwards 2003; Barker 2005; Lau & Schlesinger 2005; Shen & Edwards 2005). Chong & Druckman (2007) cited a study by Brewer (2001) about gays rights, which found that people who hold strong belief regarding a certain subject are less likely to be influenced by frames that oppose their beliefs. So that is to say, strong predispositions actually strengthen people’s resistance to contradicting information and in turn, lessen the effects of framing on public opinion.

    This reminded me of the “Selective Exposure Theory” expounded by Joseph Klapper (1960) who has a different view about influence of communication on public opinion. He said that “mass communication does not directly influence people, but…reinforces people’s predispositions”. Does this imply that framing effects theory is invalid?

    And to answer the blogger’s question – is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?

    I would say framing is not evil. I agree with snowkinz and agneslpy that it depends on how it is used. And as the blogger has pointed out, framing can help to define social norms and teach people what is acceptable, and what not.

    Instead of pondering on whether framing is evil or good, why not ask ourselves, frames vs one’s predisposition, which actually has a stronger influence on one’s opinion?

    – janisuhoshi (20906271)

  5. janisuhoshi on

    “The big problem, as was seen in studies by Converse and Zaller shows that having opinions that are ‘stable, consistent, informed and connected to abstract principles and values’ are a rarity. In fact, public opinion is fickle and is easily manipulated.”

    The above statement seems to imply that people are weak-minded and easily swayed. I beg to differ. People will not be that easily influenced or manipulated because we have tendency to be biased due to our predispositions – the values we hold.

    In the paper, Chong & Druckman (2007) mentioned that there are moderators that mitigate framing effects on people’s opinions. One of them is “individual predispositions” (Druckman 2001c, p. 241; Haider-Markel & Joslyn 2001; Edwards 2003; Barker 2005; Lau & Schlesinger 2005; Shen & Edwards 2005). Chong & Druckman (2007) cited a study by Brewer (2001) about gays rights, which found that people who hold strong belief regarding a certain subject are less likely to be influenced by frames that oppose their beliefs. So that is to say, strong predispositions actually strengthen people’s resistance to contradicting information and in turn, lessen the effects of framing on public opinion.

    This reminded me of the “Selective Exposure Theory” expounded by Joseph Klapper (1960) who has a different view about influence of communication on public opinion. He said that “mass communication does not directly influence people, but…reinforces people’s predispositions”. Does this imply that framing effects theory is invalid?

    And to answer the blogger’s question – is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?

    I would say framing is not evil. I concur with snowkinz and agneslpy that it really depends on how it is used. As the blogger has pointed out, framing can help to define social norms and teach people what is acceptable, and what not.

    Instead of pondering on whether framing is evil or good, why not ask ourselves, frames vs one’s predisposition, which actually has a stronger influence on one’s opinion?

    – janisuhoshi (20906271)

  6. ischmimi on

    This is an interesting topic. I’d like to share some of my personal views on the questions and points the author has posted, as well as, my views on some of the opinions of fellow classmates. For clarity, I would be presenting them in bullet points.

    1) So how do you figure? Is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?

    As shared by the other commentators, I agree that framing is merely a tool, a tactic if you will, to present a message in such a way that it meets the agenda of the sender of the message. As to whether it is “evil” or good, I believe it is still a gray zone where the lines are blurred. There is a kind of truth in the material universe but things may not be as absolute in morality.

    2) “With the internet and social media platforms, people discusses issues and are more skeptical to any news or information that they received as compared to a decade back. ” -agneslpy

    Another interesting point there. This supports what Chong & Druckman have said about how competing voices cause the audience to question more deeply about the messages they read.

    However, it is important to note that the news from internet and social media platforms may not even present all the different views to an issue due to the “tailoring” or personalization of the web for the user. For example, Google and Facebook has done this. Content that is most likely in sync with the searcher’s views may be presented first, content that may not fit in with the searcher’s values may be placed last, or omitted.

    This is done by reading into the searcher’s click patterns, search history etc. A personalized web is done so for a variety of reasons. This increases the chance that searchers click on a link (think about what this does for the advertisers and how users would be interact more with the platforms).

    Lastly, while many have argued that the internet and the rise of social media has revolutionised the way people get information. Others have also pointed out that the internet is still monopolised by large players, making it challenging for alternative voices to be heard still.

    3) The above statement seems to imply that people as weak-minded and easily swayed. I beg to differ. People are not that easily influenced or manipulated because we have tendency to be biased due to our predispositions about certain issues. Instead of pondering on whether framing is evil or good, why not ask ourselves, frames vs one’s predisposition, which actually has a stronger influence on one’s opinion? -janishoshi

    This is a valid point brought up. A very thought-provoking one, I must say. Yes, I agree that all of us make choices based on our values, predispositions which stem from past experiences with a certain issue and that we would most likely seek to validate what we want to believe rather than challenging them by adopting another point of view. Treading on unknown grounds can be extremely uneasy.

    And it is true that those who may have stronger opinions may in fact, be less susceptible to the messages sent. That does not hold for everyone though. I remember a case study we have read up on during our politics of mass media module. It was about how there is still a large number of undecided voters and this was the group to influence. Only a certain number of strong opinionated people are able to resist the messages. That is if, they make it past the stage of decoding a message to reveal the sender’s true agenda or objectives.

    Let me explain. I have written a recent blog post (https://communicationstrategies.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-framing-of-decisions-and-the-psychology-of-choice-by-amos-tversky-and-daniel-kahnerman/) on the way framing dramatically influenced the way people have made their selections of various issues. The results showed that people have a tendency to engage in risk-taking behavior when they are presented with a negative frame and more likely to avoid risks in positive frames. Therefore, I believe it is not a case of whether the audience are weak-minded in keeping their stand on a certain issue or giving in to another view. I dare not assume that all have the full capacity to even decode the message/ true intentions of the sender of the message. Rather, I feel that it is about how the senders of message frame a situation in a certain way that make themselves more favorable to the intended audience. For example, polticians may present a policy that supports pro-choice, in a way that makes it seem like a policy on pro-life, in their bid to gain the favor of people who are pro-life.

  7. ischmimi on

    *Updated*

    This is an interesting topic. I’d like to share some of my personal views on the questions and points the author has posted, as well as, my views on some of the opinions of fellow classmates. For clarity, I would be presenting them in bullet points.

    1) So how do you figure? Is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?

    As shared by the other commentators, I agree that framing is merely a tool, a tactic if you will, to present a message in such a way that it meets the agenda of the sender of the message. As to whether it is “evil” or good, I believe it is still a gray zone where the lines are blurred. There is a kind of truth in the material universe but things may not be as absolute in morality.

    2) “With the internet and social media platforms, people discusses issues and are more skeptical to any news or information that they received as compared to a decade back. ” -agneslpy

    Another interesting point there. This supports what Chong & Druckman have said about how competing voices cause the audience to question more deeply about the messages they read.

    However, it is important to note that the news from internet and social media platforms may not even present all the different views to an issue due to the “tailoring” or personalization of the web for the user. For example, Google and Facebook has done this. Content that is most likely in sync with the searcher’s views may be presented first, content that may not fit in with the searcher’s values may be placed last, or omitted.

    This is done by reading into the searcher’s click patterns, search history etc. A personalized web is done so for a variety of reasons. This increases the chance that searchers click on a link (think about what this does for the advertisers and how users would be interact more with the platforms).

    Lastly, while many have argued that the internet and the rise of social media has revolutionised the way people get information. Others have also pointed out that the internet is still monopolised by large players, making it challenging for alternative voices to be heard still.

    3) The above statement seems to imply that people as weak-minded and easily swayed. I beg to differ. People are not that easily influenced or manipulated because we have tendency to be biased due to our predispositions about certain issues. Instead of pondering on whether framing is evil or good, why not ask ourselves, frames vs one’s predisposition, which actually has a stronger influence on one’s opinion? -janishoshi

    This is a valid point brought up. A very thought-provoking one, I must say. Yes, I agree that all of us make choices based on our values, predispositions which stem from past experiences with a certain issue and that we would most likely seek to validate what we want to believe rather than challenging them by adopting another point of view. Treading on unknown grounds can be extremely uneasy.

    And it is true that those who may have stronger opinions may in fact, be less susceptible to the messages sent. That does not hold for everyone though. I remember a case study we have read up on during our politics of mass media module. It was about how there is still a large number of undecided voters and this was the group to influence. Only a certain number of strong opinionated people are able to resist the messages. That is if, they make it past the stage of decoding a message to reveal the sender’s true agenda or objectives.

    Let me explain. I have written a recent blog post (https://communicationstrategies.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-framing-of-decisions-and-the-psychology-of-choice-by-amos-tversky-and-daniel-kahnerman/) on the way framing dramatically influenced the way people have made their selections of various issues. The results showed that people have a tendency to engage in risk-taking behavior when they are presented with a negative frame and more likely to avoid risks in positive frames. The audience were so easily swayed by the simple presentation of the options provided. The example that was provided in the blog post were arithmetic problems that required the audience to make a moral decision. Yet, the results obtained based on the choices made reveal that framing really did play a big part in influencing decisions. We may not be as rational as we think. Therefore, I believe it is not a case of whether the audience are weak-minded in keeping their stand on a certain issue or giving in to another view as this is based on the premise that the audience can already tell different ideologies apart. I dare not assume that all have the full capacity to even decode the message/ true intentions of the sender of the message. Rather, I feel that it is about how the senders of message frame a situation in a certain way that make themselves more favorable to the intended audience. For example, polticians may present a policy that supports pro-choice, in a way that makes it seem like a policy on pro-life, in their bid to gain the favor of people who are pro-life.

    • janisuhoshi on

      ischmimi has a point here:

      “…there is…a large number of undecided voters and this was the group to influence. Only a certain number of strong opinionated people are able to resist the messages.”

      Can I say that framing theory affects those who are undecided as this group of people tend to be fickle and indecisive, and may rely on media messages to form their opinion of an issue? If this is the case, the framing theory is valid. Frames can manipulate the opinions of people who are undecided (e.g. swinging voters in an election) but cannot influence those who have already deliberated on the options, decided on one and are loyal to their choice.

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    • tefaifoxhunter on

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