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Framing

 

Explanations > Theories > Framing

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

A frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence understand the situation.

Kahneman and Tversky defined a decision frame as ‘the decision-maker’s conception of the act, outcomes and contingencies associated with a particular choice.’

Research

Tversky and Kahneman offered people one of the following choices:

  • A: A sure gain of $240
  • B: A 25% chance to gain $1000 and 75% chance of getting nothing.

84% of people chose the more certain A. They then offered them one the following choices:

  • C: A sure loss of 750
  • D: A 75% chance of losing $1000 and a 25% chance to lose nothing.

Now 73% preferred to gamble. 

The framing of the question in each case was important, as B and D actually have higher expected utility (value) than A and C. It also shows how framing a choice in terms of gain will push people towards a certain decision, whilst framing it in terms of a loss increases the chance that people will choose to gamble.

Example

I see a holiday in the hills as a opportunity for outdoor exercise. My friend sees is as a chance for a quiet read. My son sees it as a long period of boredom.

So what?

Using it

Change elements of a person's frame (reframing) and hence how they view the world). This is a powerful persuasive technique. 

Being able to see things through many frames yourself gives you a broader perspective and able to understand more of how others think.

Defending

When people ask you to look at something from another viewpoint, be aware that there are many viewpoints, many of which are valid and legitimate. 

See also

Schema, Reframing

References

Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1971), Tversky and Kahneman (1981)

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