Title

The role of cultural ideologies and source expertise in the adoption of issue frames

Date of Completion

January 2002

Keywords

Psychology, Social|Political Science, General

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Previous research has shown that the way in which a policy is framed affects public opinion. However, researchers have yet to empirically examine the factors that influence the adoption of one possible policy frame over another. Two social factors—cultural ideologies and source expertise—have been theorized to influence framing, but their effects have not been tested. The experiments presented in this dissertation therefore examined the role of cultural ideologies and source expertise in frame adoption. In Experiment 1, participants were primed with one of two different ideologies and they then read about a proposed welfare policy. Results showed that ideology priming influenced participants' subsequent policy framing. In Experiment 2, participants read two essays that discussed the issue of stress among college students. Each essay framed stress in a different way and was attributed to either an expert or to a non-expert source. After reading the essays, participants answered questions about stress. Results showed that participants adopted the expert's frame more than the non-expert's frame in their responses to these questions and thus showed that source expertise can play a role in policy frame adoption. In Experiment 3, participants read two persuasive essays that argued in favor of a dry city policy proposal. Each essay framed the policy in one of two different ways and was attributed to either an expert or to a non-expert source. After reading the essays, participants indicated their opinions toward the policy and listed arguments in support of their opinions. As predicted, results showed that participants' opinions toward the policy remained strongly negative after reading the essays. However, contrary to predictions, participants adopted the frame of the non-expert more than the expert source in their arguments. Thus, it appears that, in certain circumstances, non-experts can actually be more influential in framing new issues than can experts. Results of all three experiments illustrate the effectiveness of a new method of assessing the frames that people adopt to understand social issues and provide empirical evidence of the role of salient cultural ideologies and source expertise in the adoption of such frames. ^