The Definition of the Situation and Variable Rationality: The Model of Frame Selection as a General Theory of Action
Starting from the classical sociological notion of the definition of the situation and the idea of variable rationality, the article develops the Model of Frame Selection (MFS) as a general theory of action. This model explains how an actor defines a situation (frame selection), which program of action he activates (script selection) and which action he is willing to perform (action selection). The MFS assumes that each of these selections can be governed by one of two distinct modes of information processing: A reflecting-calculating mode in which an actor shows the forward-looking maximizing behavior assumed by rational choice theory, or an automatic-spontaneous mode in which he will select without any prior reflection a mentally strongly accessible alternative. Relying on insights gained in cognitive social psychology, the MFS also specifies the conditions under which one or the other mode prevails. How the MFS can be applied to explain behavior and guide the analysis of social mechanisms is demonstrated.
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