Enlightening Experts: The Effect of Frames and Values on Expert Attitudes

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Andrews, Amelia Caron
Environment; Environmental Policy; Framing; No-Till; Political Psychology; Values
thesis / dissertation description
This dissertation is an examination of the framing process among domain experts—that is, authorities in specific policy fields. Driving this inquiry is a seemingly simple argument: frames influence how experts use their values to evaluate framed policy issues. Issue frames lead experts to consider the appropriateness of the values and mental models guiding their domain-relevant choices, and to change their attitude to resolve cognitive dissonance. The quality of this change rests on their perception of the values that issue frames stress. Focusing on farmers’ tillage choices, I use a mixed method approach to test my expectations through a series of originally designed interviews and field experiments. Results indicate that while issue frames may not have an independent influence, they can have a substantial impact on experts’ attitudes. This is not an independent influence, but rather rooted in experts’ prior experiences and values. Moreover, I find that experts’ interpretations of the values underlying novel issue frames determine whether they experience a positive, negative, or no framing effect. Results call to question the measurement of expertise within framing scholarship, and suggest that individuals seeking expert support need to facilitate a collaborative re-framing of environmental issues.