Perspective and the Framing Effect: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 5

Since I was going to talk about the framing effect last week (and opted for the planning fallacy instead because of circumstances), I thought I’d get into the framing effect this week. The framing effect is a very easy bias to understand, in that it’s not as complicated in its description as some of the other biases are. In short, the framing effect is how people can react differently to choices depending on whether the circumstances are presented as gains or losses.

The famous example of the framing effect comes from a paper by Kahneman (who I’ve mentioned before) and Tversky in 1981:

Problem 1: Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimate of the consequences of the programs are as follows: If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved. [72 percent]

If Program B is adopted, there is 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and 2/3 probability that no people will be saved. [28 percent]

As you can see from the percentages in brackets, people opted for the sure thing. Now, let’s look at the second part of this study:

If Program C is adopted 400 people will die. [22 percent]

If Program D is adopted there is 1/3 probability that nobody will die, and 2/3 probability that 600 people will die. [78 percent]

Did you notice something? Program C is identical to Program A, and yet the percentage of people who were opting for Program C dropped tremendously! Similarly, notice that Program D’s percentage went way up — even though it’s the same thing as Program B. This is the framing effect in action. Is it frightening to you that we’re so susceptible to changing our mind based simply on how a choice is framed? If it’s not, it certainly should be.

Ways for Avoiding the Framing Effect

1) Reframe the question

It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t consider “reframing” the frame with which they are looking at a situation. For instance, in the example from earlier, instead of looking at it as a choice between Program A and Program B, someone could reframe Program A so that it looks like Program C and do the same with Program B, so that it looks like Program D. As a result, one would then be getting a “fuller” picture of their choice.

2) Empathy — assume someone else’s perspective

Many choices implicate another in a situation. As a result, it might be worth it to put yourself in the shoes of that other person to see how they would view a given situation. This is similar to the reframe, but is more specific in that it might serve to help the person remove themselves a little bit from the decision. That is, when we’re faced with a choice, our personal biases can have a big impact on the decision we make. When we imagine how someone else might make this decision, we’re less likely to succumb to our personal biases.

3) Parse the question

Some questions present us with a dichotomous choice: are apples good or bad? Should we exercise in the morning or the evening? Are gap years helpful or harmful? When faced with a question like this, I would highly recommend parsing the question. That is, are we sure that apples can only be good or bad? Are we sure that exercising in the morning or the evening are our only options? Often times, answers to questions aren’t simply this or that. In fact, more times than not, there is a great deal of grey area. Unfortunately, when the question is framed in such a way, it makes it very difficult to see the possibility of the grey area.

If you liked this post, you might like one of the other posts in this series:

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12 responses to “Perspective and the Framing Effect: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 5

  1. Pingback: The Confirmation Bias — What Do You Really Know: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 6 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  2. Pingback: Don’t Fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 7 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  3. Pingback: Situations Dictate Behavior: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 8 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  4. Pingback: When 99% Confident Leads to Wrongness 40% of the Time: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 9 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  5. Pingback: WRAP — An Acronym from Decisive: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 10 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  6. Pingback: He’s Not as Bad as it Seems and She’s Not as Good as it Seems: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 11 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  7. Pingback: Neither the Beginning nor the End — Remember the Middle: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 12 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  8. Pingback: If All You Have is a Hammer…: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 13 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  9. Pingback: What’s the Status Quo From the Other Side: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 14 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  10. Pingback: Hindsight is Always 20/20: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 15 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  11. Pingback: Ways For Avoiding Cognitive Biases: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 16 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

  12. Pingback: The Top Ways For Avoiding Cognitive Biases: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 17 | Jeremiah Stanghini's Blog

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