Framing Theory in the Social Sciences



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Framing Theory in the Social Sciences
Political Science 793, Winter 2010

DRAFT SYLLABUS as of November 23, 2009
Professor Robert Axelrod

Tuesdays 3-5 in 5664 Haven Hall


A frame is the context used to make sense out of a situation. For example, President Obama in his inaugural address framed the current economic situation in terms of “an army by a cold river in the American Revolution,” and suggested that we overcame that hardship because of our values, so we can (and will) overcome our current crisis since our fundamental values are intact. An alternative frame would have been the Great Depression of the Thirties.
The research seminar will be thoroughly interdisciplinary because theories and evidence of how frames work come from many disciplines. Examples include:
Political science (campaign politics and foreign policy decision making),

Cognitive psychology (e.g. sense making, attribution, and inference),

Social psychology (e.g. cognitive consistency and social influence),

Anthropology (e.g., shared culture and ethnocentrism),

Economics (e.g. the “hidden hand” frame),

Business (especially advertising),

Sociology (e.g., social mobilization), and

Artificial Intelligence (case-based reasoning).

Across disciplines, framing helps us understand topics such as leadership, learning, preference formation providing input to rational choice, alternatives to rationality (such as obligation), terrorist recruitment, the power of sacred values, use of historical analogies, and dynamics of identity.

The course will require several short papers, and a major research paper. Students will be encouraged to select a research topic that might be relevant to their dissertation. Students should purchase Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War (1992).



1. Introduction to Frames

2. Alternative Approaches Frames

Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame analysis: an essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p. 1-20. On the organization of experience.

Tversky, A. and D. Kahneman, The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 1981. 211(4481): p. 453-458. On gains vs. losses.

Chin, John. 2008. "The Power of Framing & Framing Power; A literature review." Manuscript.

Dickerson, D.L., Framing "Political Correctness": The New York Times Tale of Two Professors, in Framing public life : perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world, S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy, and A.E. Grant, Editors. 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, N.J. p. 163-174. On how media frame issues.

Boettcher III, W.A., The prospects for prospect theory: An empirical evaluation of international relations applications of framing and loss aversion. Political Psychology, 2004. 25(3): p. 331-362. Skim details of the experiments on political applications of prospect theory.

Hemmer, Christopher M. 2000. Which lessons matter? American foreign policy decision making in the Middle East. New York: State University of New York Press, p. 1-12. On whether frames determine interests or vice versa.

Benford, R.D. and D.A. Snow, Framing processes and social movements: An overview and assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 2000. 26: p. 611-639. On framing for social mobilization.

Shui, Simon C.K., and Sankar K. Pal. 2004. "Case-Based Reasoning: Concepts, Features and Soft Computing." Applied Intelligence 21 (3):233-8. Section 3 can be skimmed.

3. Analogies at War

Khong, Yuen Foong. 1992. Analogies at war: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam decisions of 1965. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, p. 1-96 and 174-263.

Harwood, John. Sept. 15, 2009. "Obama Rejects Afghanistan-Vietnam Comparison." New York Times. Obama gives three lessons of Vietnam that he thinks about “all the time,” while denying you can step in the same river twice.

Kruglanski, A.W., et al., What Should This Fight Be Called? Metaphors of Counterterrorism and Their Implications. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2008. 8(3), p. 97–133. Skim 110-123.

Hehir, A., The impact of analogical reasoning on US foreign policy towards Kosovo. Journal of Peace Research, 2006. 43(1): p. 67-81.

4. Sensemaking

Weick, K.E., The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1993. 38: p. 628-652. What can happen when sensemaking fails.

Chambers, D. and D. Reisberg, Can mental images be ambiguous? Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1985. 11(3): p. 317-328. Experiments showing that people have a hard time reversing their mental images of ambiguous figures even with hints, coaching, and training.

Beunza, D., and R. Garud. 2007. "Calculators, lemmings or frame-makers? The intermediary role of securities analysts." Sociological Review 55:13-39. On the huge value of viewing Amazon in 1998 as an internet company like Dell rather than a book retailer like Barnes and Noble.

Perrow, Charles, 1984. Normal Accidents. New York: Basic Books, p. 208-31. On how failures of sensemaking are promoted by complex interacting systems, using examples of collisions at sea.

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson, 1980. Metaphors We Live By, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p. 223-37. On self-understanding as a search for appropriate metaphors to make sense of our lives.

Tversky, A., Features of similarity. Psychological Review, 1977. 84(4): p. 327-352.


5. Persuasion

Lakoff, George. 2008. The political mind: why you can't understand 21st-century politics with an 18th-century brain. New York: Viking, p. 1-15, 43-74, 117-23, 169-75, and 209-21. Why social change needs more than appeals to rationality.

Chong, Dennis, and James N. Druckman. 2007. "Framing Theory." Annual Review of Political Science 10: 103-126.

Chong, Dennis, and James N. Druckman. 2007. "Framing Public Opinion in Competitive Democracies." The American Political Science Review 101 (4):637-55.

Fisher, Roger and William Ury, 1991. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In. Second Edition, p. 189-98. Outline of the leading book on how to bargain.

Atran, Scott, Robert Axelrod and Richard Davis. 24 August 2007. "Sacred Barriers to Conflict Resolution." Science 317:1039-40. Offering material incentives can be counterproductive.

Atran, Scott, and Robert Axelrod. 2008. "Reframing Sacred Values." Negotiation Journal 24 (3):221-46.

Mullainathan, Sendhil, Joshua Schwartzstein, and Andrei Shleifer. 2008. "Coarse Thinking and Persuasion." The Quarterly Journal of Economics: 577-99. On persuasion via classification.

Tsai, S.-p., Message Framing Strategy for Brand Communication. Journal of Advertising Research, 2007. 47(3): p. 364-377. On advertizing.

6. Case-Based Reasoning

Axelrod, Robert (PI) with co-PI’s Scott Atran, Richard Davis, and Jeremy Ginges. 2009. "Case-Based Influence in Conflict Management: A Proposal to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research." An introduction.

Watson, Ian. 1997. Applying Case-Based Reasoning: Techniques for Enterprise Systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Inc., p. 15-38.

Pal, S.K. and S.C.K. Shiu, Foundations of Soft Case-Based Reasoning. 2004, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, NJ, p. xvii-xx, 1-43, and 75-80. A good textbook

Aha, David W. 1998. "The omnipresence of case-based reasoning in science and application." Knowledge-Based Systems 11 (5-6), p. 261-73..

7. Advanced Case-Based Reasoning

Ros, Raquel, Josep Lluís Arcos, Ramon Lopez de Mantaras, and Manuela Veloso. 2009. "A case-based approach for coordinated action selection in robot soccer." Artificial intelligence 173 (9):1014-39. How to reuse and adapt experience in a real-time noisy multi-player competitive setting.


von Helversen, B. and J. Rieskamp, Models of quantitative estimations: Rule-based and exemplar-based processes compared. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2009. 35(4): p. 867-889. On how the structure of the outside world affects whether rules or cases are used to learn from experience.

Perner, P., Case-based reasoning and the statistical challenges, in Advances in Case-Based Reasoning, K.-D. Althoff, et al., Editors. 2008, Springer-Verlag: Berlin, Germany. p. 430-443. On bridging the gap between the CBR community and the statistics community, including concepts of similarity, memory organization, CBR learning, and case-base maintenance.




8. Emotion

Westen, Drew. 2007. The political brain: the role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation: Public Affairs, p. ix-xv, and 3-88. On role of emotional appeals in political campaigns.

Marcus, George E., W. Russell Neuman, and Michael MacKuen. 2000. Affective intelligence and political judgment: The University of Chicago Press, p. 1-44, 65-94, and 126-140. On emotions as an important part of intelligence.

De Martino, B., et al., Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain. Science, 2006. 313(5787): p. 684-87. Brain imaging shows emotional involvement in framing gains and loses.



9. Bias and Rationality

Tversky, Amos, and Daniel Kahneman. 27 September 1974. "Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases." Science 185:1124-31.

Gilovich, Thomas, and Dale Griffen. 2002. "Introduction - Heuristics and Biases: Then and Now." In Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, ed. T. Gilovich, D. Griffin and D. Kahneman. Eds. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Vertzberger, Y.Y.I., The World In Their Minds. 1990, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p. 323-41. On biases in information processing.

Dawes, Robyn M., David Faust, and Paul E. Meehl. 1989. "Clinical Versus Actuarial Judgment." Science 243 (4899):1668-74.

Cardie, Claire. 2000. "A Cognitive Bias Approach to Feature Selection and Weighting for Case-Based Learners." Machine. Learning. 41 (1):85-116. Human biases suggest ways to improve artificial intelligence.

Bacharach, Michael. 2006. Beyond Individual Choice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 1-23, 32-34, and 69-94. On how rationality in game theory relies on framing the self as part of a group.

Bednar, J. and S. Page, Can game(s) theory explain culture? The emergence of cultural behavior within multiple games. Rationality and society, 2007. 19(1): p. 65-97. On how experience in one setting leads to what might look like irrational behavior in another setting.



10. Frames in the Media


Lakoff, G., The political mind: why you can't understand 21st-century politics with an 18th-century brain. 2008, New York: Viking, p. 43-91. On liberal vs. conservative frames in American politics.

Hertog, J.K. and D.M. McLeod, A Multiperspectival Approach to Framing Analysis: A Field Guide, in Framing public life : perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world, S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy, and A.E. Grant, Editors. 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, N.J. p. 139-161. On framing in the news media as cultural rather than cognitive phenomena.

Miller, M.M. and B.P. Riechert, The Spiral of Opportunity and Frame Resonance: Mapping the Issue Cycle in News and Public Discourse, in Framing public life : perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world, S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy, and A.E. Grant, Editors. 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, N.J. p. 107-121. An example of automatic content analysis of framing.

Menashe, C.L. and M. Siegel, The Power of a Frame: An Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Tobacco Issues-United States, 1985-1996. Journal of Health Communication, 1998. 3: p. 307-325.



Durham, F.D., Breaching Powerful Boundaries: A Postmodern Critique of Framing, in Framing public life : perspectives on media and our understanding of the social world, S.D. Reese, O.H. Gandy, and A.E. Grant, Editors. 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, N.J. p. 123-136. A big-picture view of framing.
11, 12 and 13. Student Reports



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