Je Suis Charlie? The Framing of Ingroup Transgression and the Attribution of Responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo Attack

Nathan Walter, Stefanie Z. Demetriades, Ruthie Kelly, Traci K. Gillig


This article examines the effect of historical transgressions associated with individuals’ in-group on attribution of responsibility for the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. While the capacity of media frames to induce emotional states is well documented, the current study expands the understanding of the underlying processes associated with the framing effect by highlighting the ability of frames to induce collective-level emotions. Through an online experiment, we suggest that framing the attack in reference to American transgressions (abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison) initiated collective guilt, resulting in less attribution of responsibility for the attack to Islam and less support for anti-immigration policy in the United States. Conversely, framing the event in terms of American victimization (9/11 attack) engendered high levels of collective victimization, subsequently heightening the perceived responsibility of Islam in the attack and harnessing support for anti-immigration policy. Relevant moderators are considered, and practical and theoretical implications are discussed.


collective guilt, framing, victimization, attribution, Islamophobia

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