“The Framing effect”
Applied Rational Decision Making
University of Applied Sciences
Aneliya Vasileva Nacheva #910680
Alicia Jiménez #910670
Marta Palazuelos #910669
Presented to: Dr. Professor Freudenberger
Due date: 09th June 2014
Declaration of academic honesty
Hereby, we confirm that this course work:
“The Framing effect”
Is prepared independent and without help of other person. We used only the sources and tools
which we listed in the work. Furthermore, we confirm that we never used( will never use) this
work for other course assessments.
Place, Date …………………………………….
'When I use a word,' said Humpty Dumpty, it means just what I decided to mean ... neither
more nor less.
-The question is, 'said Alice,' whether you can make words mean so many different things.
-The question is, 'said Humpty Dumpty-know who's boss. That's it”
Through the Looking Glass (1871)
Table of Contents
2. DESCRIPTION OF FRAMING EFFECT……………….…........4
2.1 Phases of the Framing effect …………………………….......5
2.2 History and evolution of the Framing effect……………....…6
3. FRAMING EFFECT IN DAILY LIFE………………………......7
3.1.1 Results. ……………………………………………........8
3.2.1 Example. …………………………………………….....9
3.2 Framing as a daily mental activity……………………...........8
3.3 How to overcome Framing effect…………………………....9
We tend to think we are rational creatures, and we make sound decisions based on all the
available facts. But the truth is that we all have a slew of cognitive biases that can alter our
thinking. Frequently, we think our memory is an accurate record of things that have happened to
Often we do not realize why exactly between different choices we prefer one rather than the
other, although is not always our free choice, we act conditioned by the way they show us the
different possibilities; this is known as the Framing effect. This theory describes and studies
people ´s reaction depending on the way the information is expressed could be as a loss or as a
gain. But the fact is that people are more motivated to avoid a loss than to seek a gain.
Throughout this work, we will try to describe what is exactly the Framing effect, its phases,
history and evolution, how it works, how could affect people in daily life and how to overcome
with it. Thereby we can see the clearest reflection of this effect in communication media and
politics attitudes. Finally, to understand how this effect influences our lives, we will present two
experiments and one visual example.
2. DESCRIPTION OF FRAMING EFFECT
The Framing effect is a theory which describes and studies people’s reaction between different
options depending on the way it is expressed.
The framing process is related to two basic operations: selecting and emphasizing words,
expressions and images, to give a point of view, a perspective or a particular angle to
We would like to explain what Framing effect is using a diary example that everybody knows;
how the means of communication are influenced by the Framing effect.
Framing effect in communication media
First of all we would like to explain three main ideas that need to be considered;
• Framing is a selection process done by communication media of a topic, to present the
most important points (facts, characters and images) and then use them to emphasize
particular causes of a phenomenon.
• Framing effect could be described as the ability of the media to induce the audience
different conclusions depending on how the information is presented.
• Frame would be every particular approach result of the process of selecting the facts,
the characters, the images and the words that are emphasized.
The means of communication not only select those topics that will become public debates, they
also define a series of patterns with which they favor a certain interpretation of the facts they
inform about. Thus, the way that people perceive the socio-politic reality, it is just the subjective
reconstruction done by the means of communication about the reality.
2.1 Phases of the FramingEffect
The Framing effect has several stages before it has an impact on our last behavior. Firstly, it
begins with a cognitive recognition of the frame. That means the framed information has to be
perceived and processed in order to have impact. Secondly, it moves toward a higher level of
affective feelings. In this way, according to Levin and Gaeth, positive frame involves positive
associations whereas a negative frame causes disagreeable associations. Thirdly, it moves
toward from the affective feelings to an overall evaluation which incorporates both,
consumers’ cognitive reactions to the product and their feelings toward the product. Finally, the
last stage is choice of decision.
2.2 History and evolution of the FramingEffect
To understand exactly what the theory of Framing effect shows us, it is important to know more
about its origin. In this way, it is going to be easier to understand why it has appeared or why it
is so important in the media.
The phenomenon of Framing effect has become really important above all in the world of
communication during the past 20 years. As a consequence, there are several works about this
effect and since 1993 Rober Entman proposed a more deeply study of the Framing effect.
The first appearance in psychology of Framing effect, occurred in 1974, due to Erving Goffman
who raised some sociological aspects. In this way, the Framing effect theory explains that
individuals make approximations of the reality taking other people’s contributions into account.
As a result, people do not respond to objective facts but they do to subjective facts, which mean
that the Framing effect theory broke up with the objective aspirations by introducing subjective
elements as fundamental part of the communicational process. After developing this concept,
the Framing effect theory it is going to be used in the sociology and media (since the early
There are several theories which have been designed to explain the Framing effect: formal,
cognitive and motivational theories.
The formal theory explains that decision makers perceive an outcome as a gain or a loss
depending on the individual’s reference point. In this way, individuals are more sensitive to
losses than to gains. As a consequence, people will choose a sure alternative perceived as a gain
rather than a risky alternative of equal expected value.
Cognitive theories are designed to determine the cognitive processing involved in weighting
gains and losses. In this way, according to Payne (1993), cognitive cost-benefit tradeoff theory
defines “choice”, as a result of a compromise between the desire to make a correct decision and
the desire to minimize effort. Therefore, decision makers examine the alternatives in order to
determine if they are able to make a good decision and expend minimal cognitive effort.
Finally, according to Lopes 1987 and Maule 1995, motivational theories explain the Framing
effect as a consequence of hedonic forces, such as the fears and wishes of an individual.
Therefore, people give stronger value to feelings of displeasure than to feelings of pleasure
3. FRAMING EFFECT IN DAILY LIFE
To catch up with a clear example that could show us how the Framing effect usually works, we
want to set out the credit card problem. This problem affects a lot of people.
The psychologists, YoavGanzach and NiliKarsahi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
Israel, decided to make an experiment to end up with: people are more motivated to avoid a loss
than to seek a gain.
To carry it out, they decided to collaborate with a national credit card company. They randomly
selected two hundred and forty-six credit card holders who had not used their cards for the
previous three months. After, all of them received a letter with a message, highlighting the
benefits of using their credit cards over cash or cheque.
So to achieve objective results, two types of messages was sent; the first negatively framed
(loss) and the second positively framed (gain)
In the negative framing condition, the costumers received this message:
“… I understand. It is worthwhile for you to know that there are many disadvantages in using
cash instead of ZionCard. One is that in using cash there is a danger that money will be lost or
stolen; but if someone used your card, we are responsible, and the money will be returned to
you. This means that paying by cash is not only less convenient, but also much less secure”.
However in the positive framing condition the last part of the received message was changed:
“…This means that paying by ZionCard is not only more convenient, but also much more
Both messages were the same. The only difference was in the way they were framed. What the
experimenters wanted to show was whether framing a message in terms of a loss or a gain
would have an impact on the number of customers who would subsequently start using their
credit cards. The results were clear-cut and decisive. Loss framing had a stronger effect on
customer behavior. It wasn’t a small difference either; those who had received the loss framed
message doubled their use of the credit card compared to those who had received a positively
The result of this experiment supports our proposed psychological model of Framing effect, and
help reinforce our claim that framing is a process distinct from traditional persuasion via belief
change. There is no doubt that framing is a tool that persuaders use to influence opinion
3.2 Framing as a daily mental activity
Reality is not just as we think it is, is not absolute, and is something that depends on the context
in which we show. Thereby, framing is our most important and least recognized daily mental
activity, this means that we are continually exposed to Framing effects and in most cases we do
not realize it.
The different framing choices that we make, lead us to determine the boundaries, appearance,
meaning, and value of our experience. Framing is a feature of our brain's architecture. Our
minds react to the context in which something is embedded, not just to the thing itself. The
cover influences our judgment of the book. A line appears longer when vertical than when
horizontal. The moon looks large on the horizon but small overhead.
The use of framing can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on who you use, can be
manipulated by social players knowingly to promote their own interests. Therefore the main
point is: how to frame it.
The picture below demonstrates how our decision will be conditioned by our background.
In this picture for example, if you choose to view the black as background, you see a vase. If for
you the white is the background, you see two profiles facing each other.
Picture1. Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201012/framing-your-most-
3.3 How to overcome Framing Effect
As we already know, Framing Effect occurs when different, but logically equivalent, words or
phrases provokes individuals to change their decision. Therefore, thanks to the framed
information, a democratic responsiveness is impossible. Framed information is used over all in
political contexts. Tversky and Kahneman have developed many experiments demonstrating
that people can make different choices depending on the context they have been formulated. In
these experiments, there were two groups of participants. One group responds to a choice
problem using one frame and the other group responds a logically identical problem that uses
another frame. The Framing effect occurs since each group has different preferences. Framing
effect has been criticized because many times decision makers do not have access to outside
information or advice. In this way, experts formulate one important question which is if people
would be able to overcome Framing effects with additional information. Therefore, it seems
logical to think that we will be able to overcome or at least to reduce Framing effects if we have
more information, we are not isolated from social contact and context, that is, we have access to
credible advice about how to decide.
The following experiment, developed by James N. Druckman using framing problem from
McNeil, supports the idea that Framing effect is really important and dominating in our lives,
but we can diminish it by having additional credible information.
People with cancer had to choose either they prefer surgery or radiation. There were two
groups: the first one had the following information:
“Of 100 people having surgery, 10 die during surgery or the postoperative period, 32 die by the
end of one year and 66 die by the end of five years.
Of 100 people having radiation therapy, none die during treatment, 23 die by the end of one
year and 78 die by the end of five years”
The other group receives the same exact outcome with the difference that it was in terms of
“Of 100 people having surgery, 90 live through the postoperative period, 68 are alive at the end
of the one year and 34 are alive at the end of five years.
Of 100 people having radiation therapy, all live through treatment, 77 are alive at the end of
one year and 22 are alive at the end of five years.”
McNeil found that, within the first group, 44% of the people chose radiation therapy.
On the contrary, within the second group, only 18% of the people chose radiation therapy.
Then, specialists were invited to provide people information so that they can make a better
decision. In this way, participants received a description that, from one point of view, used
either a dying frame or a living frame and, from the opposed point of view, offered no
endorsement, a credible endorsement for surgery, or a credible endorsement for radiation.
The framing hypothesis predicts that individuals will prefer radiation when a dying frame is
given than when a living frame is given, regardless of whether or not advice is provided. On the
other hand, the credible advice hypothesis predicts that individuals will follow the advice,
regardless of the frame.
Since the very beginning of the communication’s existence, many investigators have tried to
study the Framing effect. Between the 60th
and the 70th
decade, the objectivism was paramount.
As we have already said before, the main idea of the Framing Effect is that it breaks up with the
objectivism and introduces the subjectivism as a part of the communicational process.
Therefore, the Framing effect tries to restructure the world by presenting another reality.
However, it is very important to say that this does not mean that the reality presented by the
media in fact it is not true, although it contains subjective aspects.
After developing several experiments, investors have concluded that Framing effect is one of
the strongest biases when taking a decision. Moreover, the vulnerability to it is different
depending on the age. In this way, its effect is stronger with children or adolescence than with
adults because the qualitative reasoning increases with age.
Daniel Kahneman talks about two systems in his book “Thinking fast and slow”. As he
described, there are two systems; System 1 which includes an intuitive thinking, that is fast,
automatic, emotional and subconscious. This one is connected directly to the Framing effect
since people’s decisions are all the time influenced by subjective aspects because the media uses
framed information. System 2 is described as effortful, slow, logical and conscious thinking.
As we have mentioned and according to Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking fast and
slow”, losses evokes stronger negative feelings than costs. Moreover, choices made by
individuals are not reality-bound because System 1 is neither.
Figure 1.Source: “Thinking fast and slow”. Daniel Kahneman
The figure above explains the value we assign to gains and losses. In this way, on the one hand,
the domain of gains is concave and the domain of losses is convex and on the other hand, the
function is steeper for losses than for gains. Therefore, we can see that a loss of X amount is
more aversive than a gain of the same X amount is attractive. That means, if we want to
persuade someone to do something, we should tell them not what they will gain but what they
People make decisions all the time, although sometime they do not realize that. Furthermore, the
term “decision frame” is used when we speak about decision-makers conception of the acts,
outcomes and contingencies associated with a particular choice. In this way, the frame that a
decision-maker adopts is controlled by the formulation of the problem and the norms, habits and
personal characteristics of the individual who is going to make the decision. Sometimes, we can
frame a given decision problem in more than one way. That means, there will be different
choices depending on the different frames and people tend to choose riskless choices rather than
“Thinking fast and slow”- Daniel Kahneman