Facets of Framing
Systematic Approach to an
Undertheorized Area of Research
on Mass Media Effects
Dietram Arend Scheufele*
Mass Communications Research Center
5050 Vilas Communication Hall
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706
email: [log in to unmask]
* Master's student
Paper proposed for presentation to the Communication Theory and
Methodology Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication convention, Anaheim, CA, August, 1996.
Facets of Framing:
Systematic Approach to an
Undertheorized Area of Research
on Mass Media Effects
The paper systematizes the fragmentized research on framing in
mass media effects research so far. It conceptually defines the concept by
proposing a four-cell typology of framing research looking at media frames and
individual frames and at frames as independent and dependent variables. Previous
studies are categorized and examined on the basis of this typology and
postulates for future research in the field are developed.
Facets of Framing Page
I. Framing - An Undertheorized Field
According to Schulz (1984:206) the formulation of the
agenda-setting hypothesis by Cohen (1962) and McCombs and Shaw (1972) is more
a speculative idea than a theory in the conventional sense. For Brosius
(1994:270) this is one of the reasons why the empirical results in this field
are so heterogeneous.
A similar theoretical and empirical inaccuracy or at least
vagueness characterizes the concept of framing in the field of media effects
research. This can be demonstrated on two levels: The first level is looking at
the concept itself and at how it is defined. Entman (1993:51) talks about
framing as a "kind of a scattered conceptualization". For him, neither the
theoretical framework nor the empirical studies have sufficiently explicated or
operationalized the concept so far. Brosius and Eps (1993:516) go even further.
For them the concept of framing is nothing but a metaphor which is defined
relatively vague. On a second level a lack of precision or clarity can be shown
by comparing framing to other closely related but different concepts. It seems
to be a problem here that in some of the early studies framing has been
operationalized in combination with other concepts like agenda setting or
priming (Iyengar and Kinder, 1987; Iyengar and Simon, 1993). Maybe as a result
later studies referred to these concepts without differentiating at all (Popkin,
1994:84-88) or only inadequately (Staab, 1991:4).
What is necessary therefore, is not an additional, different
approach to framing analysis, but rather a systematic overview over the
phenomenon itself and the studies in the field so far. This paper provides that
kind of overview. It does this in three steps: In a first part the theoretical
premises underlying the concept are clarified. This includes two steps: First, I
look at framing in the larger context of media effects research, and second,
I clarify its theoretical premises. In a third part I conceptually redefine
framing by developing a typology which classifies the potential applications of
framing theory in mass media effects research in respect to the kind of frames
under study and to the operationalization of frames as independent or dependent
On the basis of this typology previous studies on framing are
evaluated. The intention here is not to provide an exhaustive overview of
existing operationalizations, but rather to classify the most important
approaches. On the basis of this classification the last part of the paper shows
deficits of previous studies and relevant areas for future research on framing
in mass media effects research.
II. Clarification of the Concept
In order to give a systematic overview of the different possible
approaches to framing, it is necessary to both internally and externally define
the concept. An external definition, i.e. the differentiation of framing from
other closely related or preceding paradigms in media effects research, examines
framing analysis in the larger historical context of the research on media
effects. An internal way of defining framing tries to develop a pattern and to
identify the basic theoretical premises all conceptualizations of framing have
II.1. New look at Effects: Framing as Construction of Social
"The entire study of mass communication", as McQuail (1994:327)
writes, "is based on the premise that the media have significant effects". This
diagnosis, however, must be understood as only temporary result of a scholarly
discussion that has been characterized by significant changes in paradigms over
the past decades. According to McQuail, the history of research on media
effects can be divided into four stages: The first stage from the turn of the
century to the late thirties was dominated by the experience with strategic
propaganda during World War I which led to a growing fear of the influence of
media messages on attitudes. The second stage until the late sixties revised the
paradigm of strong media effects. Personal influence was considered to be the
main influence on attitude change. Klapper (1960) sums up the findings:
Campaigns do not influence people, the major effect is reinforcement of existing
attitudes. Even for those, wo actually do change their mind, the effects are
minimal. The third stage from the beginning of the seventies is dominated by the
search for new strong media effects (Noelle-Neumann, 1973 and 1979:136). The
focus of research shifted from attitude changes as in the Columbia studies to
more cognitive effects of mass media. The fourth and present stage starts in the
early 80s and is characterized by a "social constructivism". The description of
media and recipients in this stage combine elements of both strong and limited
effects of mass media. On the one hand mass media have a strong impact by
constructing social reality, as McQuail (1994:331) argues, i.e. "by framing
images of reality [...] in a predictable and patterned way". On the other hand
media effects are limited by an interaction between mass media and recipients:
"Media discourse is part of the process by which individuals construct meaning,
and public opinion is part of the process by which journalists [...] develop and
crystallize meaning in public discourse". (Gamson and Modigliani, 1989:2; also
In respect to methodology this fourth stage is characterized by
two aspects: First, television as an object of research on mass media effects
plays an important role. Schulz argues that there are two reasons for that
development: on the one hand the wide accessibility and the non-selective use of
television (Schulz, 1982:63), on the other hand the way television constructs
"social formations and history itself [...] in fiction as well as in news"
(McQuail, 1994:331; also Noelle-Neumann, 1979a:165; Schulz, 1982:63). Second,
media effects research in this fourth stage has reached a level of
"methodological prosperity" (Schulz, 1982:65). The postulate for a combination
of experimental and survey designs in media effects research as formulated by
Hovland (1959:14) is expanded by an additional emphasis on content analysis and
panel data (Noelle-Neumann, 1979a:182).
The framing approach has to be interpreted against the background
of this "social constructivism" for two reasons: First, McQuail (1994:332)
explicitly refers to "the various formulations of frame and schema theory" as
theoretical developments of this fourth stage of media effects research. Second,
Iyengar et al. (1982:848) see their research on priming and framing, i.e. on the
new effects of media in the tradition of Lippmann (1922:3-32) as research on
social constructivism. Gamson (1992a:67) explicitly refers to framing when he
points to a lack of theories providing "the interplay between two levels -
between individuals who operate actively in the construction of meaning and
socio-cultural processes that offer meanings that are frequently contested".
II.2. Theoretical Premises: Framing and Attribution Theory
Framing theory can be seen in two traditions. According to Brosius
(1994:269 Footnote 3) these two traditions or approaches can be labeled
psychological and sociological approach.
The psychological approach is based on Kahneman and Tversky's
(1972, 1979, and 1984) and Quattrone and Tversky's (1988) "prospect theory" on
the nature of subjective probability and judgement. The underlying assumption is
"that human rationality is bounded by limitations on memory and computational
abilities. Furthermore [...] decision making is often inconsistent with the
maxims of rationality" (Quattrone and Tversky, 1988:720). Kahneman and Tversky
showed in experimental settings that the evaluation of prospects, i.e. of the
expected outcomes of a certain action and the decision for one of two or more
alternative actions can be influenced by the way the situation of decision
making is described. These descriptions are called "frames" (1984:343). The
findings of the experimental studies, as Kahneman and Tversky (1979:288) argue,
can also be applied to more general societal settings. Ansolabehere and Iyengar
(1993:323-326) for example point to the implications of framing for voting
behavior, especially in respect to errors voters might make in assessing the
expected value of alternative political decisions. They talk about these
phenomena as "information-processing biases, the most relevant of which is
framing". Edelman takes this argument a step further into the system of mass
media effects. The perception of reality by the individual is for him to a large
degree dependent on the way mass media for example describe this reality: "The
social world is [...] a kaleidoscope of potential realities, any of which can be
readily evoked by altering the way in which observations are framed and
categorized" (Edelman, 1993:232).
The sociological approach is based on two different theoretical
premises: Heider's (1930, 1959, 1978) and Heider and Simmel's (1944) work on
attribution theory on the one hand, and Goffman's (1974) theory on frame
analysis on the other hand. Heider assumes that human beings can not understand
the world in all its complexity (1930:373). Therefore the individual tries to
make inferences from the large number of sensory informations to the underlying
causal relationships. (1978:28). Heider defined attribution as the link
between an observed behavior and a person who is considered to be responsible
for this action (1978:22). In his later works he expanded this definition on
attribution to environmental factors, i.e. an observed behavior can be
attributed to both personal and societal or environmental factors (1959:82).
Although Goffman does not explicitly refer to Heider's findings his work has to
be understood in the tradition of Heider's theoretical premises on attribution
of responsibility. Goffman assumes that we all actively classify and interpret
our life experiences to make sense of them. The individual's reaction to sensory
information and as a result his actions are therefore dependent on certain
frames or schemes of interpretation. These frames can be differentiated into two
classes, natural and societal frames. Natural frames help to interpret
actions, whose origin lies in the non-intentional physical world. Human factors
have no influence. Social frames on the other hand help "to locate, perceive,
identify, and label" (Goffman, 1974:21) actions and events which are a result of
intentional human action.
III. Concept Explication - Media versus Individual Frames
An application of these psychological and sociological theories
for the field of mass media research has to consider frames as schemata for both
presenting and comprehending news. According to Gitlin (1980:7) frames, "largely
unspoken and unacknowledged, organize the world both for journalists who report
it and, in some important degree, for us who rely on their reports".
III.1. Conceptual Definitions
The two different concepts of framing and frames which have
developed from the theoretical premises outlined can be labeled media frames and
individual frames. An application of the psychological approach in the field of
media effects research looks at framing in terms of media frames. The question
is how attitudes, opinions, or the support for alternative decisions is
dependent on the way an issue is framed by the mass media. In the sociological
approach the individual frame is of particular interest. The question is which
independent variables influence the frames or schemas by which individuals judge
their social environment.
This terminological and conceptual distinction follows Kinder and
Sanders (1990:74). They suggest that frames serve both as "internal structures
of the mind", which is equivalent to our definition of individual frames, and
"devices embedded in political discourse", which follows our definition of media
frames. Entman (1991:7) suggests an equivalent differentiation into individual
frames as "information-processing schemata" of individuals on the one hand, and
"attributes of the news itself" on the other hand. An exhaustive concept
explication of framing must take into account both kinds of frames.
III.1.1. Media Frames
For Gamson and Modigliani (1987:143, also Gamson, 1992:3) media
frames are conceptually defined as "a central organizing idea or story line that
provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events [...]. The frame suggests what
the controversy is about, the essence of the issue". Tuchman offers a similar
definition for media frames. For her media or news frames are necessary to turn
meaningless and nonrecognizable happenings into a discernible event. "The news
frame organizes everyday reality and the news frame is part and parcel of
everyday reality [...], [it] is an essential feature of news" (Tuchman,
1978:193). This concept of media framing can include the intent of the sender,
but the motives can also be unconscious ones (Gamson, 1989:158).
Entman (1993:52) offers a more detailed explanation of how media
frames actually offer schemas for interpretation. For him essential factors are
selection and salience: "To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived
reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to
promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral
evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation". More specific, media frames can be
used in four different ways: they can, first, define problems, second, diagnose
causes, third, make moral judgements, and fourth, suggest remedies. How events
and news are framed and presented in the mass media can thus systematically
affect how recipients of the news come to understand these events (Price,
Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995:4).
III.1.2. Individual Frames
The concept of individual framing refers to cognitive schemata of
individuals that help to interpret political events (Pan and Kosicki, 1993:56).
Frames or schemata are for Entman therefore defined as "mentally stored clusters
of ideas that guide individuals' processing of information (1993:53). Two frames
of reference can be used to interpret and process information: global and
long-term political views on the one hand, and short-term issue-related frames
of reference on the other hand.
Global political views are a result of certain personal
characteristics of individuals and have a rather limited influence on the
perception and interpretation of political problems (Kinder, 1983:414). The
short-term issue-related frames of reference, however, have a significant
influence on perceiving and processing information. Graber (1984:22) talks about
"organized knowledge about situations and individuals that has been abstracted
from prior experiences. It is used for processing new information and retrieving
stored information". Her findings are consistent with the theoretical premises
outlined above. By far "the most common way to interpret news stories is to view
them from the perspective of likely causes of observed effects" (Graber,
1984:155). Iyengar and Simon come to similar results. For them individuals tend
"to simplify political issues by reducing them to questions of responsibility"
(Iyengar and Simon, 1993:879).
III.1.3. A Typology of Framing
When trying to systematize the studies on framing in mass media
effects research beginning with Iyengar's seminal work (1987, 1989, 1991) we
have to systematically take into account the role that media and individual
frames can play in political information processing and interpretation.
Theoretically both media and individual frames can be examined as independent or
dependent variable. We can therefore develop a four-cell typology which
classifies all empirical studies on framing in dependence of the way they
conceptually define framing.
_ _ _
_ _ Frame as _ Frame as
_ _ Dependent Variable _ Independent
_ _ _
_ _ _
_ _ _ - Pan and Kosicki
_ _ _ - Entman (1993)
_ Media _ _
_ Frames _ _
_ _ _
_ _ _
_ _ - Iyengar (1987, 1989, _ - Graber (1984)
_ _ and 1991) _
_ Individual _ - Gamson (1992) _
_ Frames _ - Price, Tewksbury, _
_ _ and Powers (1995) _
_ _ _
Table 1: Typology of Frames
Ideally empirical studies on framing in the field of mass media
effects should conceptually and operationally define both concepts, media and
individual framing, as independent and dependent variable in order to fully
examine the construction of social reality. The questions that have to be asked
for the four cells of the typology are: 1) What factors influence the way
journalists or other societal groups frame certain issues? 2) What kinds of
media frames influence the audience's perception of certain issues? 3) Which
factors influence the establishment of individual frames of reference, or are
individual frames simply replications of media frames? 4) How do individual
frames influence perception of issues, opinions, or even actions of individuals?
I now look at the way previous studies have operationalized media
and individual frames. I use the four-cell typology to classify theses studies,
to identify deficits in respect to concept explication and operationalization,
and to show relevant areas for future study.
III.2.1 Operationalization of Media Frames as Dependent Variable
The top-left cell of the typology has not yet been adequately
empirically operationalized. Van Dijk (1985) raises the question, "why, for
instance, [...] news items [have] the kind of thematic or schematic structures
we want to study?" (1985:70). He suspects that the way news is framed in mass
media is a result of social and professional routines of journalists. Gamson and
Modigliani (1987:168) assume that the formation of frames can be explained by an
interaction of journalists' norms and practices and of the influence of interest
groups. For Edelman (1993:232) the choice of frames "is typically driven by
ideology and prejudice".
Bennett (1993) and Edelman (1977, 1993) offer a qualitative
approach to this aspect of framing. For Edelman the framing of issues by
societal groups is a result of intentional considerations. He provides some
evidence in form of an exploratory qualitative analysis of the news coverage on
the Gulf War of 1991. "Authorities and pressure groups categorize beliefs in a
way that marshals support and opposition to their interests" (1977:51). By using
the means of mass media they construct opinions and reality by using their
societal influence to establish certain frames of reference. These frames can
differ significantly from the objective reality. Bennett (1993) talks about
category mistakes which are established via mass media. "The mass media become
powerful agents for publicizing these mistakes by featuring the words of the
public officials who claim to represent the vast majority of the people"
III.2.2. Operationalizations of Media Frames as Independent
Conceptualizations of framing developed by Pan and Kosicki (1991)
and Entman (1993) consider media frames to be the independent variable. Their
main focus of interest is the question, which kinds of media frames can be
identified. They do not examine, however, how attitudes, opinions, or even
individual frames of the public change in dependence of these media frames.
Pan and Kosicki (1993) describe the structure of news discourse in
general and potential framing devices in particular. They conceptually define
media frames to be "tools for newsmakers to use in composing or constructing
news as well as psychological stimuli for audiences to process" (1993:59). With
a newspaper article on an anti-abortion rally held in Wichita, Kansas as an
example they present four types of structural dimensions of news which influence
the formation of frames: 1) Syntactic Structures: This dimension refers to
patterns in the arrangements of words or phrases. 2) Script Structures: This
feature of frames includes two aspects, a general newsworthiness of an event on
the one hand, and the intention to communicate news and events to the audience
which transcends their limited sensory experiences. 3) Thematic Structure:
Journalists tend to impose a causal theme to their news stories, either in form
of explicit causal statements or by linking observations to direct quote of a
source. 4) Rhetorical Structures: This dimension of media framing refers the
"the stylistic choices made by journalists in relation to their intended
effects" (Pan and Kosicki, 1993:61).
Entman (1993) examines the coverage on the downing of a Korean and
an Iranian airplane. Frames are for him conceptually defined as independent
variable, i.e. as "attributes of the news itself" (1993:7), which influence both
political decision making and public opinion. He content analyzes all articles
on the issue in the New York Times and the Washington Post, two issues of both
TIME and Newsweek, and the CBS Evening News during this two week period. He
identifies five traits of media texts that set a certain frame of reference
which have a critical impact on information processing: 1) importance
judgements, 2) agency, i.e. the answer to the question, who did it, 3)
identification with potential victims, 4) categorization, i.e. the choice of
labels for the incidents, and 5) generalizations to a broader national context.
Entman (1993:22-23) interprets political decision making and poll
results as empirical evidence of the impact of news frames he measures in the
content analysis. For him public announcements of both Congress and the House of
Representatives and the fact that Congress took concrete steps against
international terrorism can be considered as evidence for the impact of framing
of news messages on public opinion. He also presents poll results as further
evidence for this impact. Although both assumptions seems to be quite
reasonable, the inferences he makes are not supported by the data he presents. A
content analysis of a sample of print and TV media combined with
non-longitudinal secondary survey data does not allow for the inference, that
"the [...] story convinced the public" (Entman, 1993:23).
III.2.3. Individual Frames as Independent Variable
In a panel study of 10 interviews between 1976 and 1977 among
about 170 registered voters in Evanston, Illinois, Graber (1984) examined the
schemata or individual frames that people use to process political information.
These independent variables turned out to be highly stable over time. "Once
established, schemas resist disconfirmation" (Graber, 1984:149). With open-ended
questions she tried to tap the way people perceived the importance and nature of
issues and asked them to report them in their own way.
The analysis of the answers to the open-ended questions led to
three major conclusions (Graber (1984:173): 1) Most people have a rather broad
range of individual frames that are likely to crop up in news stories. 2) Over
nine different issues Graber could identify five subdimensions of individual
frames which influence the perception and interpretation of news: first, a
cause-and-effect dimension, second, a personal dimension, third, an
institutional dimension, fourth, a human interest and empathy dimension, and
fifth, a cultural dimension (1984:188-189). 3) The individual frames or
"individual schemas reported [...] reveal a good deal of shared stereotypical
thinking by all [...] panelists".
III.2.4. Individual Frames as Dependent Variable
The studies on individual frames as dependent variable (Iyengar,
1987, 1989, 1991; Gamson, 1992; Price, Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995) all
operationalize a relationship between media framing as independent and
individual frames as dependent variable. As the emphasis in all of these
approaches is on individual information-processing, however, they are in this
paper classified as studies on individual frames as dependent variable.
Iyengar (1987, 1989, 1991) content analyzed all newscasts of the
television networks ABC, CBS, and NBC. This analysis showed that networks frame
newscasts either in episodic or thematic terms. Episodic newscasts depict
public issues in form of concrete instances or specific events, thematic
newscasts report on a more abstract level in form of general outcomes. Iyengar's
analyses also showed "that the networks rely extensively on episodic framing"
Between 1985 and 1987 Iyengar conducted nine experiments in a
pretest-posttest-design. He exposed his subjects to an experimental stimulus
in form of a newscast which contained a number of stories. One of the stories
classified as either episodic or thematic in the content analysis was inserted
into the newscast. The experimental stimulus was varied in a 2x5 design. On the
one hand the inserted story was framed either thematically or episodically, on
the other hand five issues were tested: crime, terrorism, poverty, unemployment,
and racial inequality.
According to results on open-ended questions in the posttest
questionnaire two dimensions of attribution of responsibility can be
differentiated: causal and treatment responsibility (1987:818-819, and 1991:28).
Both dimensions can be further divided into punitive, individualistic or
personal, and societal or systemic attributions of responsibility.
Gamson (1992) operationalized individual frames in a more
qualitative approach. He examines the relationship between ideas and symbols
used in public discourse on the individual frames "that people are able to
construct on many issues" (1992:6).
In 37 focus group discussions among 188 participants he confronted
groups of five people with four different issues: the Arab-Israeli conflict,
troubled industry, affirmative action, and nuclear power. The independent
variables were so-called critical discourse moments in form of cartoons and
newsstories on the four issues which were handed out to the participants in the
focus groups (1992:26). In order not to artificially set a frame of reference
the facilitators in the single groups used a standardized script when
introducing the issues.
Gamson could identify three ideal types of formation of frames on
the group level: cultural, personal, and integrated. A cultural approach to
develop a common individual frame is defined as a group discussion which relies
exclusively on media discourse and popular wisdom. A personal approach relies
only on experimental knowledge and popular wisdom in framing the issue, but does
not integrate media discourse to support it. Integrated discussions use all
three elements, media discourse, popular knowledge, and experimental knowledge,
to form individual frames in group discussion (Gamson, 1992:129).
The most elaborate approach to individual frames as dependent
variable is offered by Price, Tewksbury, and Price (1995). For them previous
studies have exclusively focused on politically relevant outcomes of framing and
not "examined directly the more immediate influence of story frames on readers'
cognitive responses" (Price, Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995:5). Therefore both
media frames as independent variable and individual frames as dependent variable
In an experimental setting Price, Tewksbury, and Powers examine
the influence of certain characteristics of media coverage on "the knowledge
activation process, in particular effect of news frames on the applicability of
ideas and feelings" (Price, Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995:5).
135 undergraduate students were asked to read news articles about
possible cuts in state funding to the university that were experimentally
prepared to manipulate various news frames. Three manipulated settings, each of
them framed in a particular way, and one control group were established (Price,
Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995:12-13): 1) Conflict Frame: This article described
the conflict between opposing interest groups. 2) Human Interest Frame: This
story covered the retirement of a state budget director, who was tired of
struggling to provide equitable funding for all Michigan universities. 3)
Consequence Frame: Here potential financial consequences for all students were
mentioned. In a posttest questionnaire the students were asked "to write down
all thoughts and feelings you had while reading the preceding article, including
those thoughts that are not necessarily relevant to the article" (Price,
Tewksbury, and Powers, 1995:13).
A content analysis of the open-ended question showed that issue
frames of news stories had a significant influence on the respondents' cognitive
responses. The most interesting finding was a phenomenon, that Price, Tewksbury,
and Powers (1995:23) call "a kind of 'hydraulic' pattern, with thoughts of one
kind, stimulated by the frame, driving out other possible responses". These
findings correspond with Iyengar's (1990) assumption that information that can
be most easily retrieved from memory tends to dominate judgements, opinions and
decisions (Iyengar, 1990:1).
IV. Deficits and Outlook
On the basis of both the conceptual framework provided by the
four-cell typology developed above and of the operationalizations and empirical
findings presented, three problematic areas of framing in the field of media
effects research can be identified: First, studies focus on single aspects of
framing instead of a relationship between media and individual frames. Second,
media frames are treated as short-term phenomena which can be tested in
experimental studies. And third, combinations of methods are not or only
insufficiently applied for studies on mass media effects.
IV.1. The Four-Cell typology as Model for Future Research
The presentation of operationalizations and empirical results has
shown, that the fractured paradigm that Entman (1993:51) talks about is not only
problematic in respect to conceptualization of framing but also in respect to
its operationalization. Future studies therefore have to agree on a systematic
approach on the research on framing.
The four-type model developed offers a first step in this
direction. In order to fully explain and describe the influences and effects of
framing in the field of mass media effects research, all four cells have to be
part of an exhaustive concept explication on framing.
IV.2. Long-Term Versus Short-Term Effects
Looking at previous studies and findings on framing also shows
that so far framing has been considered to be a short-term effect of mass media.
According to Graber (1984), however, "change of established schemas is
troublesome, especially when schemas are based on personal experiences or on
judgements accepted from highly trusted sources" (Graber, 1984:142). This means,
that frames of reference seem to be undynamic variables which are influenced by
factors other than issue-related media coverage. Graber (1984) talks about
schemas or frames as a result of socialization processes. "Schema acquisition
bears the imprint of the particular culture in which learning takes place"
IV.3. Combination of Methods as Main Objective of Framing Research
As a result of the first two aspects mentioned, the need to cover
all aspects of framing and to include a long-term notion of individual frames in
the concept, the third postulate for future research has to be a combination of
methods. Two aspects seem to be especially important here, a reevaluation of
television news as main focus of research on the one hand, and an emphasis on
content analysis and panel-survey designs as additional methods for examining
framing effects on the other hand.
IV.3.1. Television as Main Focus of Framing Research
The first aspect, the focus on television news in framing
research, seems to be appropriate when television is considered to be a medium
which can both produce and change opinions (Noelle-Neumann, 1980:125). This
potential of television must be understood, however, as only necessary condition
for an influence on recipients. Especially in respect to short-term concepts of
mass media effects the sufficient condition "actual exposure to news" has to be
Therefore, experimental designs as suggested by Iyengar (e.g.
1991) seem to be inappropriate. Guo and Moy (1995) for example falsified in a
cross-medium comparison between television and newspaper Iyengar and Kinder's
(1987:1) assumptions of a dominant influence of television on the political
perceptions of individuals in two respects: On the one hand they showed that the
influence of television international and national news on knowledge and
political participation could be to a large degree explained by newspaper
reading as antecedent variable (Guo and Moy, 1995:13 and 24). On the other hand
they assume, that "the goal of television is mainly entertainment" (Guo and Moy,
1995:3). An experimental setting in which subjects are exposed exclusively to
television news in an artificial reception situation drastically reduces the
external validity of the findings. Hovland summarizes this phenomenon with the
term "captive audience" (Hovland, 1959:8).
IV.3.2. Experiment, Survey, and Panel
For the second aspect, the postulate for a combination of methods
in media effects research we have to look at two aspects: a general
applicability of the experiment as a method for exploring mass media effects on
the one hand, and the relevance of a combination of methods for the field in
The laboratory experiment is important for the social sciences in
general and mass media effects in particular for two reasons (Schulz,
(1970:135). First, the large numbers of independent and intervening variables
and the interactions between them in the process of mass communication research
lead to difficulties in analyzing these relationships. An exploration of the
effects of mass media is therefore only possible, as Hovland (1959:15) writes,
by reduction of the number of independent variables in the laboratory
experiment. Second, experiments are the only method that allows to actually
prove a causal relationship between variables (Schulz, 1970:76). These causal
relationships can usually be shown on a high level of statistical significance,
i.e. a high internal validity. For Kerlinger (1986:368) experiments are
therefore of great importance for measuring short-term influences of stimuli on
attitudes, knowledge and behavior of recipients.
A high level of internal validity does not necessarily allow for a
generalization of the results, however (Brosius, 1991:293). Making inferences
from experimental settings of framing on general social settings, i.e. on media
effects is therefore possible only to a very limited extent.
IV.3.3. Relevant Aspects for Future Research
For future research two postulates can be formulated. The first
postulate addresses the four-cell table introduced. Future research has to
systematically concentrate on the empty cell which looks at media frames as
dependent variable. Research designs appropriate for filling this cell with high
quality findings could follow equivalent research designs from the field of
agenda-setting research (for an overview see Staab, 1990; Scheufele, 1993).
Kepplinger (1991, 1992), and Lang, Engel Lang, Kepplinger, and Ehmig (1993) look
at the influence of historical events on the professional and political
attitudes of German journalists in print and broadcast media. In order to show
influences of these attitudes on the media agenda Kepplinger, Brosius, Staab,
and Linke (1989) proposed a model that assumes that journalists' criteria for
selecting news are directly influenced by their political attitudes in general
and their point of view on certain issues in particular. Similar models could be
developed for framing research.
The second postulate is closely related to the first one. In order
to show the processes that influence the framing of media content through
journalists' attitudes or opinions a combination of multi-method approaches with
longitudinal data is a necessary condition. Journalists' attitudes have to be
assessed in surveys and the results have to be compared at various points of
time to results from content analyses of media content. Noelle-Neumann's
postulate (1979a:181) is therefore still valid. The experiment is no longer an
appropriate means of measuring all levels of mass media effects, as the most
important independent variables can not be controlled in experimental settings.
For her (Noelle-Neumann, 1979:133) Hovland's (1959:14) postulate for a
combination of experimental and survey data has to be extended to content
analysis and panel data to adequately test mass media effects in general and
framing effects on a levels in particular.
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 It is important to notice, however, that the idea itself is
not new and has been mentioned
by other authors before Cohen's study (Schulz, 1984:206 Footnote
 Another area of framing research, which is only indirectly
concerned with effects of mass
media and can therefore not be covered here, is the field of
social movements. Snow, Burke Rochford, Jr.,
Worden, and Benford (1986) and Snow and Benford (1988 and 1992)
look at the importance of master frames and
collective action frames for the study of cycles of protest.
Klanderman and Oegema's (1987), Klanderman's (1988
and 1992), and Entman and Rojeki's (1993) work is focused rather
on the potential of master frames invented by
social movements to influence the motivation for individuals to
support these movements and to form consensus.
Entman and Rojecki (1993:156) for example suggest "seven
evaluative dimensions of news messages that are likely
to affect a movement's ability to garner public support".
Gerhards and Rucht (1992:582) finally try to
synthesize the previous findings into a consistent model. They
offer a differentiation into three types of
framing: First, diagnostic framing, which means identifying a
problem and the attribution of blame and
causality, second, prognostic framing, which specifies, what
needs to be done, and third, motivational framing,
i.e. the "call to arms for engaging in ameliorative or
corrective action" (Snow and Benford, 1988:199).
 McQuail's book itself is an indicator for this changing
paradigms. While in the second
edition (McQuail, 1987:251) he talks about the agreement "that
there are effects from the media", the third
edition refers in the same context to "significant effects" of
mass media (McQuail, 1994:327).
 Heider also provided experimental evidence for his
assumptions. A vast majority of subjects
who were shown movies with abstract movements of geometrical
shapes interpreted these movements as actions of
human beings with a certain underlying motivation (Heider and
 Heider talks about "effective personal force and effective
environmental force" (1959:22).
 This difference between natural and societal frames is
equivalent to Heider's
differentiation into personal and environmental attributions.
 Kinder (1983:401) and Kinder and Sears (1985:671) could
identify six personal
characteristics which influence global political views of
individuals: personality, self-interest, leadership,
group identification, values, and inferences from history.
 As a clear distinction between thematic and episodic frames
was impossible news stories
were "classified on the predominant frame" (1991:18).
 The experiments were conducted with 40 to 244 subjects.
Neither in the original studies
(1987, 1989) nor in the summarized results (1991) Iyengar does
provide information on the exact date of the
experiments or the precise number of subjects per experiment,
 For the theoretical background on both Iyengar's (1991)
and Price, Tewksbury, and Power's
(1995) rather speculative explanations see Collins and Loftus
(1975) and Tulving and Watkins (1975). Tulving and
Watkins assume that by processing information individuals
develop certain "memory traces" (1975:261). Collins
and Loftus use the term "activation tags" for the same
phenomenon: "When a concept is primed, activation tags
are spread [...]. When another concept is subsequently
presented, it has to make contact with one of the tags
left earlier and find an intersection" (Collins and Loftus,
 In respect to captive audiences two more aspects are of
importance: On the one hand,
Noelle- Neumann (1979:133) assumes that only a cumulative
effect, i.e. a combination of consonant messages from
various media has significant effects on the audience. On the
other hand Noelle-Neumann (1991:229) showed that
individuals' perception of reality and therefore the
construction of frames is influenced by two sources of
perception: direct perception of their environment and mediated
perception of reality. The previous research
designs on framing have taken neither of the two aspects into