Reconceptualizing cognitive media effects theory and research under the judged usability model
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This review synthesizes the existing literature on cognitive media effects, including agenda setting, framing, and priming, in order to identify their similarities, differences, and inherent commonalities. Based on this review, we argue that the theory and research on each of these cognitive effects share a common view that media affect audience members by influencing the relative importance of considerations used to make subsequent judgments (including their answers to post-exposure survey questions). In reviewing this literature, we note that one important factor is often ignored, the extent to which a consideration featured in the message is deemed usable for a given subsequent judgment, a factor called judged usability, which may be an important mediator of cognitive media effects like agenda setting, framing and priming. Emphasizing judged usability leads to the revelation that media coverage may not just elevate a particular consideration, but may also actively suppress a consideration, rendering it less usable for subsequent judgments, opening a new avenue for cognitive effects research. In the interest of integrating these strands of cognitive effects research, we propose the Judged Usability Model as a revision of past cognitive models.
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