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Making Sense of Issues Through Media Frames: Understanding the Kosovo Crisis


Adam J. Berinsky is associate professor of political science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139 E53-459. Donald R. Kinder is Philip E. Converse Collegiate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109.


How do people make sense of politics? Integrating empirical results in communication studies on framing with models of comprehension in cognitive psychology, we argue that people understand complicated event sequences by organizing information in a manner that conforms to the structure of a good story. To test this claim, we carried out a pair of experiments. In each, we presented people with news reports on the 1999 Kosovo crisis that were framed in story form, either to promote or prevent U.S. intervention. Consistent with expectations, we found that framing news about the crisis as a story affected what people remembered, how they structured what they remembered, and the opinions they expressed on the actions government should take.