Framing Emotional Response

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Abstract

Framing studies typically are concerned with how people's opinions are affected by opposing ways of presenting, or framing, an issue or event. This paper investigates whether different frames also lead to different patterns of emotional response. Cognitive appraisal models of emotion suggest that frames can alter emotional reactions. An experiment compared students’ emotional responses to versions of a newspaper article that emphasized underlying social conditions as the cause of the 1992 Los Angeles riots (situational frame) or emphasized irresponsibility and criminality on the part of the rioters (dispositional frame). Few systematic framing effects were found when examining whether respondents reported experiencing a particular emotion. However, consistent with recent work showing that predispositions mediate the effect of frames on opinion, frames altered the relationship between predispositions and emotion. Patterns suggestive of framing effects also emerged in an examination of the content of people's emotional reactions. The findings are consistent with the claim that framing affects emotional responses, reinforce the claim that framing effects depend on individual predispositions, and underscore the importance of accounting for the content of people's emotional responses in the study of emotion.

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