Precision vs. realism on the framing continuum: Understanding the underpinnings of message effects

Emily K. Vraga, D. Jasun Carr, Jeffrey P. Nytes, Dhavan V. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Although largely unrecognized, a close reading of extant experimental research on framing effects reveals that contrasting approaches mark the conceptualization and operationalization of message frames in much contemporary inquiry. One approach strives to maintain factual and logical equivalence while altering the vantage point taken in the story, while the other emphasizes different facts, changing the sources, subjects, and scope of a story as part of the frame shift. Exploring the continuum between precision and realism as approaches to framing-between more internally valid and more ecologically valid conceptions of frames-is the focus of this research. An online experimental study contrasted a precise equivalence framing of a social issue in gain and loss terms against a version that included frame-resonant facts, providing the news story more realism. These frames were embedded within a broadcast news report that was scripted, filmed, and produced in conjunction with working television journalists from a PBS affiliate. Results suggest that both more precise and more realistic forms of gain and loss framing deserve continued attention, albeit with careful consideration of what it means "to frame," both conceptually and operationally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Framing
  • Risk perceptions
  • Video processing


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