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Researchers have shown that the way a message is framed (organized, arranged, and portrayed) determines the level of persuasion that message will elicit. Message framing in simple terms can be defined as the language and wording of information to communicate an idea or thoughts. Message Framing is crucial to public health because how an issue is described or framed will in most cases determine the extent to which it will have popular and political support (Dorfman, Wallack & Woodruff 2005). In essence, Message framing is a tool health educators use to bridge the gap between market justice and social justice (Ibid).
Language is a core component to message framing and cannot be over emphasized, however Chapman 2001 and Themba 1999, argues that it should not be the first and foremost consideration. Before language can be effective for health advocates, they first must know and determine the specifics of what needs to be changed and the details of effecting that change. It is only after this idea is thought out in concrete terms that language should be considered; and the language
educators use needs to grow out of policy that needs first to be rooted in social justice values (Dorfman, Wallack & Woodruff 2005).
Framing can mean a lot of different things in the minds of people. For some, framing is simply the use of words. While for others, it goes as far as tapping into people’s morals, beliefs and value’s structure to trigger them to react in certain ways to society’s social and
public issues (Dorfman, Wallack & Woodruff 2005). Frames can be broken into two categories. They are conceptual frames and news frames. These two frames are believed to have the most bearing on how to create messages that emphasize public health as social justice (Ibid).
Conceptual frames operate inside our heads to organize and interpret the information we get from the outside world. A conceptual frame which is also called individual frames is a cognitive device where categories that serves as forms of major headings can be filled (Scheufele 1999). Conceptual framework is the bed rock for any understanding because people are only able to fit words, images, texts and actions into an already existing systems in their brains that give them order and meaning (Dorfman, Wallack &Woodruff 2005). These frames are usually expressed in a metaphor that helps people understand abstract things.
News frame or media frame is the second category. In today’s world of media, most information that we don’t directly experience is gotten from the media, particularly the news. Scheufele, quoting Gamson and Modigniali defined media frame as “a central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strips of events “(Scheufele 1999). Although the entertainment media transmit ideas through popular culture, but the news is the site for public debate where policy issues are framed. For this reason, the news is an important source for public health issues. In the context of news, frames organize stories, deleting what is of importance and what isn’t (Dorfman, Wallack & Wooduff 2005).
Additional studies indicate that there are significant interactions for framing and gender. An example was the intention to perform skin cancer detection test. It was observed that women were more likely to respond to a negative framing, whereas men were more likely to respond to a positive framed message (Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. 2000).
An example of positive/negative framed message is, “Young children, especially those under the age of one, are particularly susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia. Medical scientists are developing a new immunisation to prevent children under the age of one year old from contracting bronchitis and pneumonia. The immunization may soon be available from your local medical centre at a reasonable cost. The side-effect of this new immunisation is that the child may develop a case of the common flu. Hence, the child should be watched closely for a few days after the immunisation. Extensive research has shown that (10%)(90%) of children who have this new immunisation (do)(do not) develop the side-effect” (Ibid).
Positive framing: Extensive research has shown that (90%) of children who have this new immunisation (do not) develop the side effect.
Negative framing: Extensive research has shown that (10%) of children who have this new immunisation (do) develop the side effect.
Involvement also plays an important role in message framing. Two kinds of involvement are “High” and “Low” involvement. Some findings argue that under high involvement conditions, negative framing should be more effective because respondents would process the information more comprehensively and use “central” issue-relevant cues whereas, under low involvement conditions, positive framing should be more effective because under “peripheral” processing, cues such as positive words would have greater influence. (Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. 2000).
An example of a high involvement versus low involvement condition is, “One group of student respondents was told that cholesterol and heart disease “applied even to people their age” (high involvement), whereas another group was told that cholesterol and heart disease “applied mainly to people much older” (low involvement)” (Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. 2000).
An alternate prediction was, under high involvement conditions (i.e., high personal relevance, systematic processing), framing would have no effect because the subject’s elaborations on the issue includes a consideration of the same benefits been gained or lost (Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. 2000).
The conclusion was, positive framing would be more effective for prevention behaviors and negative framing would be more effective for detection behaviors under high involvement condition (Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. 2000).
Message framing is very important, and it would be ideal to have an entire class dedicated to framing. Message plays a vital role in the success of many great leaders and motivational speakers. The importance of message framing stretches across the borders of politics and goes into our daily encounters such as; Relationships, Cultural differences, gender differences, effective communication, and how religious messages are conveyed to certain audiences. In public health, researchers and public health advocates should be highly skilled in message framing so as to get the response they want from their targeted audience, or at least, get the audience thinking in a certain way—although these tactics could be biased.
Donovan, R., & Jalleh, G. (2000). Positive Versus Negative Framing of a Hypothetical Infant Immunization: The Influence of..
Health Education & Behavior
(1), 82. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Dorfman, L., Wallack, L., & Woodruff, K. (2005). More than a message: framing public health advocacy to change corporate practices.
Health Education & Behavior
(3), 320. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.
Scheufele, D. (1999). Framing as a Theory of Media Effects.
Journal of Communication
(1), 103-22. Retrieved from ERIC database.
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