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Generalization of the Valence Framing Effect


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Principal Investigator(s):

George Bizer
Union College
Email: bizerg@union.edu
Home page: http://idol.union.edu/bizerg/

Jeff Larsen
The University of Tennessee
Home page: http://psychology.utk.edu/people/larsen.html

Sample size: 471
Field period: 7/26/2005 - 11/7/2005




Abstract:

Prior research on the valence-framing effect (Bizer & Petty, 2005) showed that framing attitudes negatively (“I oppose Gore”) leads to more resistant attitudes than does framing attitudes positively (“I support Bush”). This study assessed whether valence framing also influences attitude certainty and behavioral intention. Respondents reported attitudes toward candidates in their states’ 2005 gubernatorial races. A manipulation of question wording led people to either frame their preferences positively or negatively. Among participants who did not prefer either major-party candidate, attitude framing did not influence either certainty or behavioral intention. However, among participants with a candidate preference, those people led to frame their opinions negatively showed higher certainty and behavioral intention than did those people led to frame their opinions positively. In addition, among these people, certainty mediated the effect of framing on behavioral intention.

Hypotheses:

H1: Negatively framed attitudes will be held with more certainty than will positively framed attitudes.

H2: Negatively framed attitudes will manifest greater behavioral intention than will positively framed attitudes.

Experimental Manipulation:

Attitude framing: The initial attitude item was asked in one of two ways: For example, for residents of New Jersey, some people were asked what they thought of Forrester being elected, while others were asked what they thought of Corzine being elected.

Key Dependent Variables:

Certainty (how certain are you, how sure are you)

Behavioral intention (will you volunteer for, will you try to persuade people to vote for, will you vote for your preferred candidate)

Additional Information:

For a full description of the valence-framing effect, consult: Bizer, G. Y., & Petty, R. E. (2005). How we conceptualize our attitudes matters: The effects of valence framing on the resistance of political attitudes. Political Psychology, 26, 553-568.

Summary of Findings:

Among participants who did not prefer either major-party candidate, attitude framing did not influence either certainty or behavioral intention. However, among participants with a candidate preference, those people led to frame their opinions negatively showed higher certainty and behavioral intention than did those people led to frame their opinions positively. In addition, among these people, certainty mediated the effect of framing on behavioral intention.

Conclusion:

The study indicates that valence framing generalizes beyond attitude resistance to attitude strength in general. In addition, the fact that the data were collected among a representative sample in a real-world context speaks to the robustness of the effect.

References:

Bizer, G. Y., & Petty, R. E. (2007, Jan.). Negatively framed attitudes are stronger than positively framed attitudes. In J. T. Larsen (Chair), Political cognition: The causes and consequences of construals. Symposium presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Memphis, TN.

[added] Bizer, G. Y., Larsen, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (2011). Exploring the valence-framing effect: Negative framing enhances attitude strength. Political Psychology, 32:59-80.


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