A psychology of framing: The effects of personality on susceptibility to media frames
The leading edge of research on framing, which is one of the most widely known general phenomena in the social sciences, is presently focused squarely on questions of individual-level variation. This dissertation explores an individual characteristic that is new to the literature on framing: personality. Research has shown that personality traits may to be linked directly to certain behaviors that in turn might be associated with framing effects. Also, some personality traits are tied to information processing mode, which has been linked directly to framing effects and decision-making more generally. Beyond these theoretical clues, there is a good deal of face validity to the expectation that a trait such as agreeableness might be tied to how people respond to framed messages. To address this I ask and attempt to answer the following question: Does susceptibility to framing effects vary across major personality traits? The theoretical expectation I develop here is that personality type will mediate individual framing susceptibility. I operationalize personality using the Big-Five personality traits, and I develop an experimental design in which subjects are exposed to varying frames across several issue areas: civil liberties, medical research and treatments, energy, affirmative action, and gun control. The data for this analysis come from a Web-based experimental survey that I designed and that was administered by Knowledge Networks in the Spring of 2010 to a national sample of 809 participants. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, through a cooperative agreement with the University of California, Santa Barbara. The results show that that certain personality traits, particularly openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness mediate framing effects. These findings open a new direction for research on variation in susceptibility to framing effects.
0615: Political science