The influence of episodic and thematic frames on policy and group attitudes: Mediational analysis

Sheila A. Springer, Jake Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


An experiment examined how episodic and thematic political message frames affect attitudes toward older adults and Social Security. When exposed to messages about abolishing Social Security, participants exposed to episodic frames were significantly more likely to endorse message-consistent attitudes than participants exposed to a thematic frame. In mediation analyses, an episodic frame featuring a counterstereotypical exemplar increased endorsement of individual responsibility for retirement planning, which then led to more negative attitudes toward Social Security. These effects did not occur with a stereotypical exemplar in an episodic frame. The same mediated pathway influenced attitudes toward older adults in a more complex manner. Results provide support for individual responsibility attributions as a mediating mechanism underlying the effects of certain episodic frames.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-244
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Attitudes toward aging
  • Episodic and thematic frames
  • Framing
  • Group attitudes
  • Media exemplars
  • Policy attitudes
  • Political messages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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