Summary of Framing Social Values: An Experimental Study of Culture and Cognition

Introduction.  The authors immediately introduce the research question:  “How and why does a given social value come to shape the way a person thinks, feels, and acts in a specific social situation.” (p 59). The researchers reason, “an individual internalizes general frameworks from the culture in which she/he is embedded and socialized,” building upon the studies of Goffman and DiMaggio. (p. 60).  The researchers hope to answer three questions, “How do values get situationally framed as a person navigates the boundaries of the variegated settings composing the complex cultural mosaic? How, why, and with what personal and social consequences are values situationally framed and reframed as a person traverses social boundaries defined by a myriad of sometimes problematic qualities, including race, class, religion, and so forth? Under what conditions will a person manage well or poorly the inevitable conflicts likely to arise?” (p. 60).

Methods.  The authors devised three hypotheses:  Individuals will identify more strongly with a value that is part of their culture than an external one that is not.  Photo narratives will elicit a greater response than narratives with no photos.  The language of a narrative will impact the intrinsic vs extrinsic values of the individual’s cultural reference.

Results.  In all three methods used, the results significantly indicated that emotional identification was stronger with intrinsically-associated, values, language, and photos.  (p. 66)

Discussion.  The authors conclude that a family from a foreign culture, either Chinese or Mexican in the studies, influences the social values of individuals based upon very specific contexts depending upon the individual’s interaction with his/her American colleagues or foreign cultural family.  Specifically, when the social value frame (values, language, photos) was more highly accessible to the study subject, the study subject reacted with a higher emotional attachment.  (p. 67).  The practical and theoretical results of this encourage further study, possibly deeper into a subculture vs. a dominant culture and possibly into a different culture than the cultures and age groups used in this study.


Stolte, J. , Fender, S. (2007). Framing Social Values:  An Experimental Study of Culture and Cognition. Social Psychology Quarterly, Volume 70, No. 1, 59-69.


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