Frame effect: this is this cognitive bias
Apr 11, 2023
On most occasions, we are not aware of the effect that the way in which the information is presented to us has on our responses or opinions. presented, to the point of choosing options that are not always beneficial to us but that at first sight are not perceived as a loss.
This is what happens with the framing effect, a type of cognitive bias which we will talk about throughout this article. In the same way we will review those factors that exert an influence on it, as well as the causes of it.
- Related article: "Cognitive biases: discovering an interesting psychological effect"
What is the frame effect?
The frame effect is a psychological phenomenon that belongs to the group of cognitive biases. A cognitive bias refers to an alteration in the mental processing of information which gives rise to an inaccurate or distorted interpretation of reality.
In the specific case of the frame effect, the person tends to offer a particular answer or choice depending on how the information is presented to them. or in the way the question is asked.
In other words, the subject's response or predilection when posing a dilemma will depend on the way in which it is posed, this being the "framework" of the question.
When this response or choice is related to gain or loss, people they tend to avoid taking risks when the question or issue is stated in a positive way, while if it is formulated negatively, the subject is more willing to take risks.
This theory points to the idea that any loss, no matter how great, is more significant for the person than the equivalent gain. In addition, according to this assumption there are a series of principles that occur when the person must make a choice of this type:
- An assured profit is favored over a probable profit.
- A probable loss is preferable to a definite loss.
The main problem and one of the greatest dangers of the framework effect is that, in most cases, people only receive options in relation to profit or loss, not gain/gain or loss/loss.
This concept helps to facilitate the understanding of frame analysis within social movements, as well as the formation of political opinions in which the way in which the questions in opinion polls are asked condition the response of the asked. In this way, it is sought to obtain a beneficial response for the organization or institution that has commissioned the survey.
- You may be interested in: "Horn effect: this is how our negative prejudices work"
The Tversky and Kahneman study
The best way to understand this framework effect is by reviewing the results of studies that analyze it. One of the best-known investigations was carried out by Stanford University psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.
In this work we tried to demonstrate how the way in which different phrases and situations are posed conditions the response or reaction of the respondents, in this specific case, in relation to a plan for the prevention and eradication of a deadly disease.
The study consisted of the approach of two problems in which different alternatives are provided to save the lives of 600 affected by an alleged disease. The first two possibilities were reflected in the following options:
- Save the lives of 200 people.
- Choose an alternative solution in which the probability of saving all 600 people is 33% but there is a 66% chance of saving no one.
The result in this first problem was that 72% of the people surveyed chose the first alternative, since they perceived the second as too risky. However, this response dynamic changed in the second phase of the study, in which the following choices were made:
- 400 people die
- Choose an alternative in which there is a 33% chance that no one will die and a 66% chance that everyone will die.
In this second case, it was 78% of the participants who chose the second option, since the first (despite being equivalent to the first problem), was perceived as much more risky.
The explanation is found in the different expressions used. In the first exposition of the alternatives, the choice was named in a positive way (“Save the life to 200 people”), while the second exposed a negative consequence (“They die 400”).
Therefore, although the two options imply the same type of consequence, the transformation of the alternatives caused the respondents to focus more on the benefits or losses. From this point of view, people show an inclination to try to avoid risks when the choice is presented in terms of gain, but they prefer them when it comes to choosing an option that involves losses.
What causes this phenomenon?
Although there are no defined and demonstrable causes that justify the appearance of this phenomenon, cognitive psychology theorists appeal to the imperfection of people's reasoning process. This defect is defined by the general incapacity that we have to generate multiple alternative formulations of a problem, as well as the consequences of each of them.
Therefore, the reason why people give in to the framework effect is that in most cases people tend to passively accept conflicts. of choice as they are framed, so they are not aware that when their choices are conditioned by the frame rather than by their own interests or benefits.