Framing is a strategy used to bias one option over another when a decision is necessary.
The term originated from a simple analogy of a picture frame; by changing the colour of the frame different colours in the picture are highlighted/brought to our attention.
What is the Framing Effect?
The Framing Effect is at play when an identical piece of information is being viewed more or less favourably, depending on the way that information is presented.
Why should we care? Because how the information is framed influences the choices we make, more so than the information itself. And this leaves us open to being manipulated into making a decision that may not be the best one for us.
There are many different ways to frame the same piece of information, but the origins of the Framing Effect are rooted in the human tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains.
For example, people typically avoid a gamble with an equal probability of either gaining $10 or losing $7.
Other than loss aversion we can frame information through a number of different “frames” that play to our biases, such as the Positivity/negativity frame.
For example, out of two cancer treatments which one sounds more appealing:
– the 1st option, where 20% of the patients die, OR
– the second option where 80% of the patients survive?
The second option, because it is positively framed definitely sounds more appealing, even though the odds of survival are the same in both options.
The lottery is a perfect example of the Framing Effect in action.
In NZ we have approx. 1 in 4,000,000 chance of winning lotto’s 1st division when we buy a $15 ticket. But that is not how Lotto NZ frames the outcome of playing the lotto. The ads they have running on TV are framed as “What would you do if you won?” … This plays to our emotions and focuses our attention on everything we could do with the big winnings instead of the grim reality of the real probability of winning the lotto.
No wonder they don’t have an ad that says “…your odds of winning Lotto Powerball with a $15 Power Dip ticket are the same as choosing the right star from all the visible stars out of the next 843 nights!” *
*Source – https://www.safergambling.org.nz/know-your-odds/how-lotto-works
Another way of influencing a person NOT to buy a lotto ticket would be by taking advantage of our propensity for loss aversion:
– You have a 0.0004% chance of winning $1,000,000
– You have a 100% chance of not losing your $15
Overcoming Framing Effect
The only thing that is proven to overcome the Framing Effect is an expert’s opinion.
Meaning we trust people we consider experts even when their opinion goes against the data we are presented with. So, for example, if we are presented with two options and the first one sounds worse to us than the second; if an expert recommends the first option to us, we are more likely to go with that option.
Failing to procure an expert’s opinion we can always try to reframe the information we are presented with ourselves.
Mirta is a Director of ViAGO Limited, a behavioral science enthusiast, and a mum to three boisterous boys.