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Main article: "Framing effect (psychology)

"Amos Tversky and "Daniel Kahneman have shown that framing can affect the outcome (i.e. the choices one makes) of choice problems, to the extent that several of the classic axioms of "rational choice do not hold.[26] This led to the development of "prospect theory as an alternative to rational choice theory.[27]

The context or framing of problems adopted by decision-makers results in part from extrinsic manipulation of the decision-options offered, as well as from forces intrinsic to decision-makers, e.g., their norms, habits, and unique "temperament.

Experimental demonstration[edit]

Tversky and Kahneman (1981) demonstrated systematic reversals of preference when the same problem is presented in different ways, for example in the Asian disease problem. Participants were asked to "imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume the exact scientific estimate of the consequences of the programs are as follows."

The first group of participants was presented with a choice between programs: In a group of 600 people,

72 percent of participants preferred program A (the remainder, 28%, opting for program B).

The second group of participants was presented with the choice between the following: In a group of 600 people,

In this decision frame, 78% preferred program D, with the remaining 22% opting for program C.

Programs A and C are identical, as are programs B and D. The change in the decision frame between the two groups of participants produced a preference reversal: when the programs were presented in terms of lives saved, the participants preferred the secure program, A (= C). When the programs were presented in terms of expected deaths, participants chose the gamble D (= B).[28]

Absolute and relative influences[edit]

Framing effects arise because one can frequently frame a decision using multiple "scenarios, wherein one may express benefits either as a relative risk reduction (RRR), or as absolute risk reduction (ARR). Extrinsic control over the cognitive distinctions (between "risk tolerance and "reward anticipation) adopted by decision makers can occur through altering the presentation of "relative risks and "absolute benefits.

People generally prefer the absolute certainty inherent in a positive framing-effect, which offers an assurance of gains. When decision-options appear framed as a likely gain, risk-averse choices predominate.

A shift toward risk-seeking behavior occurs when a decision-maker frames decisions in negative terms, or adopts a negative framing effect.

In "medical decision making, "framing bias is best avoided by using absolute measures of efficacy.[29]

Frame-manipulation research[edit]

Researchers have found[26] that framing decision-problems in a positive light generally results in less-risky choices; with negative framing of problems, riskier choices tend to result. According to "behavioral economists["citation needed]:

Researchers have found["citation needed] that framing-manipulation invariably affects subjects, but to varying degrees. Individuals proved risk averse when presented with value-increasing options; but when faced with value decreasing contingencies, they tended towards increased risk-taking. Researchers["who?] found that variations in decision-framing achieved by manipulating the options to represent either a gain or as a loss altered the risk-aversion preferences of decision-makers.

In one study, 57% of the subjects chose a medication when presented with benefits in relative terms, whereas only 14.7% chose a medication whose benefit appeared in absolute terms. Further questioning of the patients suggested that, because the subjects ignored the underlying risk of disease, they perceived benefits as greater when expressed in relative terms.[30]

Theoretical models[edit]

Researchers have proposed[31][32] various models explaining the framing effect:


Cognitive "neuroscientists have linked the framing-effect to neural activity in the "amygdala, and have identified another brain-region, the orbital and medial "prefrontal cortex (OMPFC), that appears to moderate the role of "emotion on decisions. Using "functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain-activity during a financial decision-making task, they observed greater activity in the OMPFC of those research subjects less susceptible to the framing-effect.[33]

Framing theory and frame analysis in sociology[edit]

Framing theory and frame analysis provide a broad theoretical approach that analysts have used in "communication studies, "news (Johnson-Cartee, 1995), politics, and "social movements (among other applications).

According to some sociologists, the "social construction of collective action frames" involves "public discourse, that is, the interface of media discourse and interpersonal interaction; persuasive communication during mobilization campaigns by movement organizations, their opponents and countermovement organizations; and consciousness raising during episodes of collective action."[34]


"Word-selection or diction has been a component of "rhetoric since time immemorial. But most commentators attribute the concept of framing to the work of "Erving Goffman on "frame analysis and point especially to his 1974 book, Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Goffman used the idea of frames to label "schemata of interpretation" that allow individuals or groups "to locate, perceive, identify, and label" events and occurrences, thus rendering meaning, organizing experiences, and guiding actions.[35] Goffman's framing concept evolved out of his 1959 work, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, a commentary on the "management of "impressions. These works arguably depend on "Kenneth Boulding's concept of image.[36]

Social movements[edit]

Sociologists have utilized framing to explain the process of "social movements.[12] Movements act as carriers of beliefs and ideologies (compare "memes). In addition, they operate as part of the process of constructing meaning for participants and opposers (Snow & Benford, 1988). Sociologists deem the mobilization of mass-movements "successful" when the frames projected align with the frames of participants to produce resonance between the two parties. Researchers of framing speak of this process as frame re-alignment.


Snow and Benford (1988) regard frame-alignment as an important element in social mobilization or movement. They argue that when individual frames become linked in congruency and complementariness, "frame alignment" occurs,[37] producing "frame resonance", a catalyst in the process of a group making the transition from one frame to another (although not all framing efforts prove successful). The conditions that affect or constrain framing efforts include the following:

Snow and Benford (1988) propose that once someone has constructed proper frames as described above, large-scale changes in society such as those necessary for social movement can be achieved through frame-alignment.


Frame-alignment comes in four forms: frame bridging, frame amplification, frame extension and frame transformation.

  1. Frame bridging involves the "linkage of two or more ideologically congruent but structurally unconnected frames regarding a particular issue or problem" (Snow et al., 1986, p. 467). It involves the linkage of a movement to "unmobilized ["sic] sentiment pools or public opinion preference clusters" (p. 467) of people who share similar views or grievances but who lack an organizational base.
  2. Frame amplification refers to "the clarification and invigoration of an interpretive frame that bears on a particular issue, problem, or set of events" (Snow et al., 1986, p. 469). This interpretive frame usually involves the invigorating of values or beliefs.
  3. Frame extensions represent a movement's effort to incorporate participants by extending the boundaries of the proposed frame to include or encompass the views, interests, or sentiments of targeted groups (Snow et al., 1986, p. 472).
  4. Frame transformation becomes necessary when the proposed frames "may not resonate with, and on occasion may even appear antithetical to, conventional lifestyles or rituals and extant interpretive frames" (Snow et al., 1986, p. 473).

When this happens, the securing of participants and support requires new values, new meanings and understandings. Goffman (1974, p. 43–44) calls this "keying", where "activities, events, and biographies that are already meaningful from the standpoint of some primary framework, in terms of another framework" (Snow et al., 1986, p. 474) such that they are seen differently. Two types of frame transformation exist:

  1. Domain-specific transformations, such as the attempt to alter the status of groups of people, and
  2. Global interpretive frame-transformation, where the scope of change seems quite radical—as in a change of "world-views, total conversions of thought, or uprooting of everything familiar (for example: moving from "communism to "market capitalism, or vice versa; "religious conversion, etc.).

Frame analysis as rhetorical criticism[edit]

Although the idea of language-framing had been explored earlier by "Kenneth Burke (terministic screens), political communication researcher "Jim A. Kuypers first published work advancing "frame analysis (framing analysis) as a rhetorical perspective in 1997. His approach begins inductively by looking for themes that persist across time in a text (for Kuypers, primarily news narratives on an issue or event) and then determining how those themes are framed. Kuypers's work begins with the assumption that frames are powerful rhetorical entities that "induce us to filter our perceptions of the world in particular ways, essentially making some aspects of our multi-dimensional reality more noticeable than other aspects. They operate by making some information more salient than other information...."[38]

In his 2009 essay "Framing Analysis" in Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action[39] and his 2010 essay "Framing Analysis as a Rhetorical Process",[40] Kuypers offers a detailed conception for doing framing analysis from a rhetorical perspective. According to Kuypers, "Framing is a process whereby communicators, consciously or unconsciously, act to construct a point of view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be interpreted by others in a particular manner. Frames operate in four key ways: they define problems, diagnose causes, make moral judgments, and suggest remedies. Frames are often found within a narrative account of an issue or event, and are generally the central organizing idea."[41] Kuypers's work is based on the premise that framing is a rhetorical process and as such it is best examined from a rhetorical point of view. Curing the problem is not rhetorical and best left to the observer.

Rhetorical framing in politics[edit]

Semiotic analysis of 2016 Republican primaries[edit]

Framing is used to construct, refine, and deliver messages. Framing in politics is essential to getting your message across to the masses. Frames are mental structures that shape the way we view the world (Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate 2004).[42] Reframing is used particularly well by both conservatives and liberals in the political arena, so well that they have news anchors and commentators discussing the ideas, supplied phrases and framing (Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate 2004).[42]

The neoconservatives in the Bush Administration and the Pentagon viewed the 9/11 attack as an opportunity to go to war in the Middle East and finally take out Saddam Hussain. The Bush administration sold the war by convincing the nation that Iraq had WMDs and collected supportive evidence that they had Secretary of State Colin Powell present at the United Nations. The War on Terror was the label assigned by the Bush administration to its national security policy, launched in response to the attacks of 9/11 (Lewis 2009).[43] The cultural construction and political rationale supporting this slogan represent a powerful organizing principle that has become a widely accepted framing, laying the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq (Lewis 2009).[43]

The challenge of political violence has grown with new means of global coordination and access to weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration's response to this threat, following the now iconic policy reference point of 11 September 2001, has had far-ranging implications for national security strategy, relations with the world community, and civil liberties (Lewis 2009).[43] Labeled the 'War on Terror', the policy was framed within a phrase now part of the popular lexicon, becoming a natural and instinctive shorthand. More than phrases though, frames are 'organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world' (Lewis 2009).[43] As a particularly powerful organizing principle, the War on Terror created a supportive political climate for what has been called the biggest US foreign policy blunder in modern times: the invasion of Iraq. Thus, in the scope and consequences of its policy-shaping impact, the War on Terror may be the most important frame in recent memory. (Lewis 2009)

In the now well-known evolution of the administration's policy, influential neoconservatives within the administration had advocated regime change in Iraq for some time, but the events of 9/11 gave them a compelling way to fast-track their ideas and justify a new policy of preemptive war, fist in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism defined the attacks of 9/11 as 'acts of war against the United States of America and its allies, and against the very idea of civilized society'. It identified the enemy as terrorism, an 'evil' threatening our 'freedoms and our way of life. The related National Security Strategy of the United States of America clearly divides 'us' from 'them', linking terrorism to rogue states that 'hate the United States and everything for which it stands (Lewis 2009).[43] Presenting himself as God's agent, Bush's Manichean struggle pitted the USA and its leader against the evildoers (Lewis 2009).[43]

This argument is being played out in the 2016 Republican primaries, especially by Donald Trump. Trump has portrayed the Syrian refugees as foot soldiers for ISIS, coming to America to kill us in our main streets. Trump's rhetoric appears to be working; many middle class Americans are consuming his rhetoric.["citation needed] The Americans that are supporting Trump and the Republicans in general, many of them are working class and the Republican agenda although it appears to be in their favor it is not. Framing their message to say one thing and mean something completely different is what the conservatives have become masters at. The 2016 Republican primary has been a knock down fight since it started in August 2015. Donald Trump has approached this contest as if Vince McMahon were the promoter and the rest of the field are a bunch of jobbers (persons who are paid to lose). Trump was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame in 2003. Even his attacks on Megan Kelly from FOX News are straight out of the WWE's playbook. Roland Barthes analyzed wrestling and boxing in his book Mythologies.

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing- match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time... The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result. (Legum 2015)[44]



Preference reversals and other associated phenomena are of wider relevance within behavioural economics, as they contradict the predictions of "rational choice, the basis of traditional economics. Framing biases affecting investing, lending, borrowing decisions make one of the themes of "behavioral finance.


"Edward Zelinsky has shown that framing effects can explain some observed behaviors of legislators.[45]


The role framing plays in the effects of media presentation has been widely discussed, with the central notion that associated perceptions of factual information can vary based upon the presentation of the information.

News media examples[edit]

In Bush's War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age,[46]"Jim A. Kuypers examined the differences in framing of the war on terror between the Bush administration and the U.S. Mainstream News between 2001 and 2005. Kuypers looked for common themes between presidential speeches and press reporting of those speeches, and then determined how the president and the press had framed those themes. By using a rhetorical version of framing analysis, Kuypers determined that the U.S. news media advanced frames counter to those used by the Bush administration:

the press actively contested the framing of the War on Terror as early as eight weeks following 9/11. This finding stands apart from a collection of communication literature suggesting the press supported the President or was insufficiently critical of the President's efforts after 9/11. To the contrary, when taking into consideration how themes are framed, [Kuypers] found that the news media framed its response in such a way that it could be viewed as supporting the idea of some action against terrorism, while concommitantly opposing the initiatives of the President. The news media may well relay what the president says, but it does not necessarily follow that it is framed in the same manner; thus, an echo of the theme, but not of the frame. The present study demonstrates, as seen in Table One [below], that shortly after 9/11 the news media was beginning to actively counter the Bush administration and beginning to leave out information important to understanding the Bush Administration's conception of the War on Terror. In sum, eight weeks after 9/11, the news media was moving beyond reporting political opposition to the President—a very necessary and invaluable press function—and was instead actively choosing themes, and framing those themes, in such a way that the President's focus was opposed, misrepresented, or ignored.[47]

Table One: Comparison of President and News Media Themes and Frames 8 Weeks after 9/11[48]

Themes President's Frame Press Frame
Good v. Evil Struggle of good and evil Not mentioned
Civilization v. Barbarism Struggle of civilization v. barbarism Not mentioned
Nature of Enemy Evil, implacable, murderers Deadly, indiscriminant

Bush Administration

Nature of War Domestic/global/enduring



War or police action

Similarity to Prior Wars Different Kind of War WWII or Vietnam?
Patience Not mentioned Some, but running out
International Effort Stated Minimally reported

In 1991 Robert M. Entman published findings[49] surrounding the differences in media coverage between "Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and "Iran Air Flight 655. After evaluating various levels of media coverage, based on both amount of airtime and pages devoted to similar events, Entman concluded that the frames the events were presented in by the media were drastically different:

By de-emphasizing the agency and the victims and by the choice of graphics and adjectives, the news stories about the U.S. downing of an Iranian plane called it a technical problem, while the Soviet downing of a Korean jet was portrayed as a moral outrage… [T]he contrasting news frames employed by several important U.S. media outlets in covering these two tragic misapplications of military force. For the first, the frame emphasized the moral bankruptcy and guilt of the perpetrating nation, for the second, the frame de-emphasized the guilt and focused on the complex problems of operating military high technology.

Differences in coverage amongst various media outlets:

Amounts of Media coverage dedicated to each event Korean Air Iran Air
Time Magazine and Newsweek 51 pages 20 pages
CBS 303 minutes 204 minutes
New York Times 286 stories 102 stories

In 1988 Irwin Levin and Gary Gaeth did a study on the effects of framing attribute information on consumers before and after consuming a product (1988). In this study they found that in a study on beef. People who ate beef labeled as 75% lean rated it more favorably than people whose beef was labelled 25% fat.


Linguist and rhetoric scholar "George Lakoff argues that, in order to persuade a political audience of one side of and argument or another, the facts must be presented through a rhetorical frame. It is argued that, without the frame, the facts of an argument become lost on an audience, making the argument less effective. The rhetoric of politics uses framing to present the facts surrounding an issue in a way that creates the appearance of a problem at hand that requires a solution. Politicians using framing to make their own solution to an exigence appear to be the most appropriate compared to that of the opposition.[2] Counter-arguments become less effective in persuading an audience once one side has framed an argument, because it is argued that the opposition then has the additional burden of arguing the frame of the issue in addition to the issue itself.

Framing a political issue, a political party or a political opponent is a "strategic goal in "politics, particularly in the "United States of America. Both the "Democratic and "Republican political parties compete to successfully harness its power of persuasion. According to the "New York Times:

Even before the "election, a new political word had begun to take hold of the party, beginning on the "West Coast and spreading like a virus all the way to the inner offices of the "Capitol. That word was 'framing.' Exactly what it means to 'frame' issues seems to depend on which Democrat you are talking to, but everyone agrees that it has to do with choosing the language to define a debate and, more important, with fitting individual issues into the contexts of broader story lines.

— [50]

Because framing has the ability to alter the public's perception, politicians engage in battles to determine how issues are framed. Hence, the way the issues are framed in the media reflects who is winning the battle. For instance, according to Robert Entman, professor of Communication at George Washington University, in the build-up to the Gulf War the conservatives were successful in making the debate whether to attack sooner or later, with no mention of the possibility of not attacking. Since the media picked up on this and also framed the debate in this fashion, the conservatives won.[7]

One particular example of "Lakoff's work that attained some degree of fame was his advice to rename[51] "trial lawyers (unpopular in the United States) as "public protection attorneys". Though Americans have not generally adopted this suggestion, the "Association of Trial Lawyers of America did rename themselves the "American Association of Justice", in what the "Chamber of Commerce called an effort to hide their identity.[52]

The "New York Times depicted similar intensity among Republicans:

In one recent memo, titled 'The 14 Words Never to Use,' "[Frank] Luntz urged conservatives to restrict themselves to phrases from what he calls ... the 'New American Lexicon.' Thus, a smart Republican, in Luntz's view, never advocates '"drilling for oil'; he prefers 'exploring for energy.' He should never criticize the 'government,' which cleans our streets and pays our firemen; he should attack '"Washington,' with its ceaseless thirst for taxes and regulations. 'We should never use the word "outsourcing,' Luntz wrote, 'because we will then be asked to defend or end the practice of allowing companies to ship American jobs overseas.'

— [50]

From a political perspective, framing has widespread consequences. For example, the concept of framing links with that of "agenda-setting: by consistently invoking a particular frame, the framing party may effectively control discussion and perception of the issue. "Sheldon Rampton and "John Stauber in "Trust Us, We're Experts illustrate how "public-relations (PR) firms often use language to help frame a given issue, structuring the questions that then subsequently emerge. For example, one firm advises clients to use "bridging language" that uses a strategy of answering questions with specific terms or ideas in order to shift the discourse from an uncomfortable topic to a more comfortable one.[53] Practitioners of this strategy might attempt to draw attention away from one frame in order to focus on another. As Lakoff notes, "On the day that "George W. Bush took office, the words "tax relief" started coming out of the White House."[54] By refocusing the structure away from one frame ("tax burden" or "tax responsibilities"), individuals can set the agenda of the questions asked in the future.

"Cognitive linguists point to an example of framing in the phrase ""tax relief". In this frame, use of the concept "relief" entails a concept of (without mentioning the benefits resulting from) taxes putting strain on the citizen:

The current tax code is full of inequities. Many single moms face higher marginal tax rates than the wealthy. Couples frequently face a higher tax burden after they marry. The majority of Americans cannot deduct their charitable donations. Family farms and businesses are sold to pay the death tax. And the owners of the most successful small businesses share nearly half of their income with the government. President Bush's tax cut will greatly reduce these inequities. It is a fair plan that is designed to provide tax relief to everyone who pays income taxes.

— [55]

Alternative frames may emphasize the concept of taxes as a source of infrastructural support to businesses:

The truth is that the wealthy have received more from America than most Americans—not just wealth but the infrastructure that has allowed them to amass their wealth: banks, the Federal Reserve, the stock market, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the legal system, federally sponsored research, patents, tax supports, the military protection of foreign investments, and much much more. American taxpayers support the infrastructure of wealth accumulation. It is only fair that those who benefit most should pay their fair share.

— [56]

Frames can limit debate by setting the vocabulary and "metaphors through which participants can comprehend and discuss an issue. They form a part not just of political discourse, but of "cognition. In addition to generating new frames, politically oriented framing research aims to increase public awareness of the connection between framing and reasoning.


See also[edit]


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Levin, Irwin P., and Gary J. Gaeth. "How Consumers Are Affected By The Framing Of Attribute Information Before And After Consuming The Product." Journal of Consumer Research 15.3 (1988): 374. Print.

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