Framing the game: Assessing the impact of cultural representations on consumer perceptions of legitimacy

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to understand how media frames affect consumer judgments of legitimacy. Because frames exist on the sociocultural and individual level, our research takes a multimethod approach to this question. On the sociocultural level, we conduct a content analysis of operant media frames for discussing online gambling and perform an event analysis, finding that a shift in consumer judgments follows an abrupt shift in frame. Then, on the individual level, the causal mechanism for these shifts is investigated in an experimental setting using the Implicit Association Test (IAT). These experiments show that framing affects normative legitimacy judgments by changing implicit associations. Further, users and nonusers respond differently to frame elements, with users favoring an established frame and nonusers favoring a novel, legitimating frame. This suggests that media frames play a critical role in establishing legitimacy at the sociocultural level and that framing potentially bridges cognitive and normative legitimacy.

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