IntroductionFraming I
Framing II
Framing III
Framing IV
Framing V
Framing VI
Framing VII
Framing VIII

The AuthorsSite Map

Risky Behavior and Negative Framing:
The Roots of Modern Framing Research

Kahneman & Tversky (1979) were interested in understanding the conditions under which people made conservative or risky judgments. They observed evidence supporting what they called "prospect theory:" that the prospect of a loss has a greater impact on decision making than does the prospect of an equivalent gain. Considerable evidence has amassed supporting the statement that humans do not consider gains and losses logically. A decision maker will select the option with the highest subjective utility, whether or not that provides the highest objective gain (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982).

If actual gains and losses matched their psychological incarnations exactly, you'd find that people who found a $100 bill would be ten times as happy as those who found a $10 bill, and 100x as happy as the person who found a $1 bill. The inverse should also be true for losing money. If you were to plot a logical relationship on a vertical axis of value (happiness at the top of the blue line, unhappiness at the bottom) and a horizontal axis of valence (gains on the right side of the green line, losses on the left), it would look like this:

Graph of Logical Function

Logically, each increment in good fortune should represent an equal increment of value (happiness). But the relationship isn't this simple or logical. Finding a single dollar makes a person disproportionately happy. Each additional dollar found makes him happier, but not in a linear fashion. That first dollar gives "the most bang for a buck" as far as pleasure is concerned. Each additional dollar found, won, or earned gives somewhat less pleasure than the previous one. Now let's look at the losing end of the line. The loss of a dollar will make the purple line dip faster than it rose when it was in gain territory. The pleasure of winning money is less intense than the pain of losing the same sum! Kahneman & Tversky (1982) plotted the psychological relationship that exists between value, gains and losses. I've copied it from their article and reproduced it below:

Graph of Psychological Function

In the upper right "gain" quadrant, notice that "value" rises rather quickly in the lower value ranges and then levels off at higher ranges. This indicates that small fortunes are very efficient in making one happy. In the lower, or "loss" quadrant, notice that the line dips sharply below where the logical 45° line should be, and stays there. This demonstrates that losses are felt more keenly than is logical. Felt losses remain below the logical line throughout the range depicted, indicating that losing continues to hurt worse than "it actually is." Notice also that the loss line dips more sharply than the gain line ever rises. Again, we humans hate to lose. We'd rather not win, than lose!

Prospect theory, and its function above, give us an invaluable insight into human nature. We know that a human's first priority is not to lose--gains are secondary to the "no loss" rule. Thus, framing a decision in terms of possible loss should motivate a person more than framing the same decision in terms of possible gain. And, given various obligatory caveats and constraints which we explore later, subsequent research largely supports the contention that humans are acutely loss-averse and thus extraordinarily sensitive to loss frames. Continue . . .

Copyright © 1997 by Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.

Adherence, advertise, advertising, advocacy, analysis, arizona state university, asu, art of persuasion, arguing, argument, argumentation, attitude, attitude change, belief, bias, brad sagarin, brainwashing, campaign, communicate, communication, conversion. Compliance, comply, conform, conformity, consult, consultant, consulting, course, courtroom, credibility, credible, cult, cults, debate, decision making, education, emotion, executive education, executive program, executive training. Group, how to, influence, influencing, kelton rhoads, kelton rhodes, kris haynal, law, leadership, leadership training, leadership education, legal, likability, management, management, market research, marketing, mass marketing, mass persuasion, mass influence, mind control, motivation, negotiation, obedience, opinion, organizational services, personality, persuade. Persuasion, persuasive, political, political consulting, politics, polling, influence principles, professional services, program, promote, promotion, propaganda, psychological persuasion, psychological operations, psyop, psychological research, psychology, psychology of persuasion, psychology of influence, public relations, questionnaire, reinforcement, reputation. Research, rhetoric, rhetorical, rhoads, rhodes, rhods, rodes, rhoads, robert cialdini, chaldini, sales, sampling, science of persuasion, science of influence, sell, selling, small group research, social influence, social psychology, social action campaign, speaker, speech, spin, statistics, strategy, survey, technique, trial, university of southern california, usc, workshop, working psychology, work.