Incidental Framing Effects and Associative Processes: A Study of Attribute Frames in Broadcast News Stories

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attribute framing, incidental evaluation, associative processes, news broadcast, realistic context

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Most studies of the effects of framing decision alternatives either positively or negatively have focused on planned, intentional evaluations of those alternatives. To better understand these effects, we broadened the range of investigation to focus on the kinds of incidental evaluations that often occur in real‐world contexts. Participants listened to one of four variations of a campus radio news broadcast, ostensibly to provide input for future programming. The stories in each broadcast included the same basic facts, but those facts were carefully phrased to create two positively and two negatively framed stories per broadcast. Based on an associative processing account, we hypothesized that valence‐consistent framing effects would occur even though participants did not expect to evaluate the content of the stories. Results supported this hypothesis, with mixed evidence that the effects may generalize to related university experiences. We conclude that framing effects are likely to result from automatic valence‐encoding processes coupled with inferential processes that help make sense of the larger context within which the description of an alternative is embedded.

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Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, v. 18, issue 4, p. 261-280