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 for the item described (Entman 1993:52).
Not being an empirical paper, it is difficult to synthesise the key ‘findings’ of this article into a few sentences. However, this paper is well worth the read if you are interested in framing – and you should be!
This article touches on both behavioural economics and nudges (before the term was coined), by exploring how the concept of framing has been examined within other areas of research, including how different frames can influence decision making. In this, the article is an excellent introduction to framing.
Without imbibing too much self-reflection, this is the article which at the beginning of my PhD, gave me the understanding and vocabulary to begin to engage with the concept of ‘framing’. Here, Robert Entman points out that framing is studied across many disciplines, but inconsistently and without a unifying theory. By discussing this lack of unity (albeit many years before I even began thinking about framing), Entman’s article made me realise that I was not deficient for being unable to make these links myself between different pieces of research which talked about framing in a variety of different ways.
Yet, despite this lack of clarity about what framing actually is, Entman distils that, at least in the context of communication, that “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 for the item described”.
That is, the key functions of frames are to:
- Define the problem
- Diagnose the cause of the problem
- Make moral judgements and
- Suggest remedies.
By being mindful of these framing ‘functions’, one is empowered to better interrogate and understand how interested parties and ‘elites’ seek to frame issues and contest these frames in order to prosecute their own self-interest. Awareness of this can help those who would seek to promote conservation to better understand existing frames and to strategically offer their own counter-frames.