Framing theory: what it is and how it explains our perception

The theory of framing emerges in interpretative sociology and quickly moves on to cognitive psychology, in conjunction with linguistics. This allows us to understand how we access a version of reality through the way information about that reality is presented.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what framing theory is, what is its context, why it is important for cognitive psychology, and how it has impacted political and communication science.

    What is the framing theory?

    The theory of framing, or framework theory (Framing Theory) uses the metaphor of ‘frame’ to analyze how mental processes (beliefs, perceptions, common sense) are structured in relation to language and how they can be manipulated.

    In recent times, framing theory has become a multidisciplinary paradigm very popular in the social and communication sciences. In particular, she has mobilized many resources from cognitive linguistics, which has enabled her to study the construction of public opinion in relation to the information we receive from specific devices such as the mass media.

    Framing has one of its antecedents in interpretive sociology (which proposes that the interpretation of reality that we, as individuals, make occur during interaction). The term frame (which means “frame” in English), was used by Gregory Bateson in an essay on the psychology of perception, where he says that any information defined as “frame” is that which provides the receiver with elements to understand. the messages that are included in this frame.

      Does the language work as a framework?

      Words allow us to communicate because when we use them, we evoke a precise idea of ​​something (Whether we are the senders or the recipients). If we pronounce the word “apple” in a group of Spanish speakers who know apples, we will surely share a mental image very similar to a red edible sphere. Surely if we say “apple”, we would not evoke the image of a pear or a tree.

      Indeed, in our cognitive system, words perform functions similar to those of a “frame”; understand by “framing” something that sets certain limits; is an object which selects a given information from all the available information, and only presents this selection to us. This is how framing allows us to pay attention to something, At the expense of another.

      In other words, like frames, words frame certain information and allow us to recognize it, assimilate it, and then share it.

      Framing beyond the sender

      Among other things, the theory of framing has allowed us to develop some explanations on how we establish communication between them. In other words, how do we manage to transmit and receive signals with some meaning. And furthermore, what role do our cognitive patterns play in this process: Which ideas or perceptions are evoked from which words.

      According to Ardèvol-Abreu (2015), in the communicative context of framing theory, four elements are fundamental to understanding how the information frame is produced. These elements are sender, receiver, text, and culture.

      Indeed, we can place the framing not only in the person who sends the message (the sender) and in the one who receives it (the recipient), but it is also in the information itself and in the culture where he is signed up. For example, the journalistic media, by presenting us the information that interests us, they frame a reality from the moment we decide what will be and what will not be relevant.

        Impact and application in political science

        Thus, framing theory refers to the creation of frames of language and meaning, which in turn, it helps us to generate moral concepts, to affirm values, to evoke emotions, Among other important psychological processes for our daily interaction.

        Specifically, the creation of these frames of language and meaning is visible in the way the mass media presents us with certain information related to political issues, and from there they attempt to frame our psychological patterns.

        American linguist George LakoffIn one of his most popular works, “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” he tells us that framing is precisely about choosing the language that matches our view of the world. But it is not only related to the language, but to the ideas that are evoked and transmitted.

        Lakoff develops his work on framing in political theory to ask what the political position – for example conservative – has to do with the positions taken with events which seem unrelated (for example abortion, environment, foreign policy), how is this equipment given ? And … what do the postures themselves have to do with how we understand this equipment? These problems are those which could be approached from the proposals of the theory of framing.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Ardèvol-Abreu (2015). Framing or communication framing theory. Origins, development and current landscape in Spain. Latin Journal of Social Communication, 70: 433-450.
        • Lakoff, G. (2007). Don’t think of an elephant. Editorial Complutense, SA: Madrid.

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