The Framing Effect

by | Oct 27, 2022

We have the ability to influence the decisions people make based on how we present information. This is known as the framing effect. This paper provides a quick look at the framing effect before examining two studies using malicious envy and time constraints to influence the framing effect.

The framing effect is a form of cognitive bias in which people make different decisions when choosing between two objectively equivalent options depending on how the information is presented. The options are presented as either a loss or a gain in the framing task where participants must choose between a risky and a sure option. A well-known example of the framing effect is the “Asian Disease Problem” which gives a clear example of by asking an individual to either save or lose lives.

The first is the gain frame, in which the conditions are presented as lives saved with the choice of either surely saving the lives of 200 of 600 people affected by a disease outbreak or taking a 1/3 chance to save all 600 people. The second condition is the loss frame, which presents the options as lives lost with a choice made between surely losing 400 people or taking a 1/3 chance that nobody will die.

Although both choices are objectively equivalent, the way in which people react to a choice depends on whether the information is presented as a loss or gain, causing the framing effect.

Although the framing effect occurs depending on how we present information, it can also be influenced, with a study examining the impact of malicious envy building on previous studies showing how the framing effect is impacted by different negative emotions. The study found that participants avoided risky options more frequently in the gain frame when malicious envy was experienced, meaning there are practical implications in changing risk-taking tendencies. The researchers believe this may be due to the lower sense of control or the possibility of loss being associated with malicious envy. This was different to the loss frame, in which participants showed no influence from malicious envy when making a choice.

Choosing the sure option has previously occurred more frequently in the gain frame leading researchers to examine the impact of different conditions. A second study examined time constraints impacting the framing effect. Participants had the chance to win points by choosing between a sure or risky option, with an example of the sure option presented as either to ‘Keep 70” or “Lose 30”, presenting gain and loss respectively.

The participant chose the sure option more frequently in the gain frame than the loss frame and, although there was no influence on decisions by the time limits, the framing effect was enhanced with participants choosing the sure option more frequently in the gain frame than the loss frame when under shorter time constraints.

The framing effect is a form of cognitive bias that explores why people arrive at different decisions when presented with the same information as either a loss or a gain. It isn’t just what we say, but how we say things that are important as we have the ability to influence the outcome of a decision based on how we present the information.


If you wish to read the studies referred to in this paper, please follow the links below.

Malicious Envy Study

Kang, X., Zhang, B., Bi, Y., & Huang, X. (2019, Aug). The effect of malicious envy on the framing effect: The mediating role of fear of failure. Motivation and Emotion, 43(4), 648-661.

Time Constraints Study

Diederich, A., Wyszynski, M., & Traub, S. (2020, Jul). Need, frames, and time constraints in risky decision-making. Theory and Decision, 89(1), 1-37.