The way the media frame issues has a subtle yet significant effect on the general public. Studies have shown that frames can help determine which procedures we find medically necessary (Edwards, Elwyn, Covey, Matthews, & Pill, 2001), can influence our ability to recall critical details of a news story (Valkenburg, 2000), and can even subtly influence elections (Shah, Domke, & Wackman, 1996). Given the impact frames can have on the general public, it is important to have a clear way to conceptualize and measure their effects.
The most recent full explication of frames and framing effects comes from Bertram and Dietram Scheufele (2010), and serves to define what frames are, what they do, how they do it, and where they come from. However, it is lacking a predictive model for when effects will occur. Adding this level to the framing model will greatly expand the ability of researchers to accurately measure the effects of framing on individual cognitions and will at least in part fulfil the call of Scheufele and Scheufele (2010) to integrate disparate sociological and psychological theories into our understanding of framing (p. 131). This literature synthesis draws upon recent research to show that the occurrence of framing effects may be dependent upon the processing strategy utilized by the message receiver (Stewart, 2013).
This paper focuses on laying out the core tenants of framing and framing effects, and begins with an explication of key framing concepts. After this, the heuristic-systematic model is explored as a possible candidate for explaining when the effects of framing occur, and an updated model of framing effects is presented which takes these additions into consideration. The implications and limitations of this approach are discussed, in consideration of future research.
What Is Framing?
From a media effects perspective, framing is “the manner in which the construction of communication texts1 influences individual cognitions by selectively focusing on particular parts of reality while ignoring or downplaying other aspects” (Shah et al., 1996, pp. 510–11). The three core parts of this definition are the construction of a frame, its influence on individual cognitions, and its function.
The Function of Frames
Perhaps the most important of these to understand is the purpose of a frame, and why frames exist. In Entman’s (1993) preeminent piece2, he identifies four basic functions: (a) defining a problem, (b) establishing the cause, (c) assigning responsibility, and (d) suggesting possible solutions (p. 52). A single frame can fulfill all or some of these functions. Often, multiple frames will be used in conjunction with each other to build a complete narrative that fulfills all of them (Chong & Druckman, 2007), while it is also possible that only one is addressed. In the same vein, a frame can be a single word (Simon & Jerit, 2007), or it could be intertwined across the entire text (Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997). The way frames fulfil...