What Is Framing Psychology?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Framing psychology looks at the way in which individuals see or “frame” their worldview and the causes thereof. For example, optimists may see the glass “half-full” while pessimists might see it “half-empty.” This is called cognitive bias, which generally states that you have the ability to react differently to information based on whether it is presented to you in a positive or negative way. 

For example, optimists may see the glass “half-full” while pessimists might see it “half-empty.” This is called cognitive bias, which generally means that you have the ability to react differently to information based on whether it is presented to you in a positive or negative way. 

We might all see objects and concepts through a bias, which can make us twist ideas and other points of view in a way that suits our worldview. Understanding this possible proclivity is one of the most important steps for many in establishing a more flexible, empathetic and accurate worldview.

There are many ways that people can manipulate our biases. One of those ways is generally known as the framing effect. In this blog, we will look at the framing effect and discuss how it can impact our decisions.

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Experiencing the effects of framing psychology?

What is the framing effect?

The framing effect can occur when someone might react to a choice or concept based on how it is presented—or “framed”—to them. 

For example: Let's say that a doctor who is going to be performing surgery on a patient states that they have a 90 percent chance of survival. That sounds pretty good, right? 

If it was framed differently by telling the patient that they have a 10 percent chance of death instead, their reaction would probably be different. This can be due to cognitive bias. We might feel good about something if it is presented to us in a positive way, or in a way that can benefit us. But, we may start to worry if the same thing is presented to us with a negative frame. Understanding the framing effect can help you discern how people are communicating with you and why you may be reacting in a certain way.

The history of the framing effect

In 1979, several studies were released that were suggested to confirm the legitimacy of the framing effect. Two people, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, worked to create quantifiable proof that framing can influence the choices we make. This study is thought by many to have given birth to the concept of prospect theory,  which generally stataes that people might look at decisions by measuring gains and losses. You can see this concept used often in marketing, managerial leadership and business. You may also see that you use this concept throughout your daily life.

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The significance of the framing effect

The framing effect can play a significant role in decision making for some. If you are trying to convince someone to do something, you might find greater success if you present the information in a way that's framed positively. 

There are many different ways you can frame something. Here are a few examples:

Emotional appeals

Information can be framed in a way that can make you feel an emotional response. For example: A charity for an animal shelter may make you feel sorry for the animals involved. By donating some money, you might feel like you are gaining by helping those animals. This is generally defined as an emotional gain, which can lead to feelings of fulfillment and confidence in your decision-making process. 

Social pressure

Many people may find that they want to fit in with society. Because of this, many businesses might frame their products in a way that puts pressure on you to purchase to join a pool of loyal clients. 

For example: A musician may claim that millions of people listen to them. You may want to join in because so many other people are doing it. It can feel like an excellent or worthwhile gain to be a part of something that connects you with other people, even if it doesn't physically connect you with them. 

This can apply even in the context of a gain that could be statistically unlikely.  Let's look at the lottery, for example. You might have a 1 in 42 million chance of winning the lottery. The odds are generally not in your favor to win. However, marketers might present the lottery with a frame that makes it seem like a chance for significant financial gain—which can overshadow any doubt you might be feeling. You might see this in catchphrases such as: "One person has to win. It could be you”.

The framing effect may influence different demographics in different ways. Teenagers and young adults, for example, have been scientifically suggested to display riskier behavior, with many leading researchers believing that risk-based behaviors may decrease as people age. Therefore, products designed for older people might have more positive framing, whereas products for younger people may take a different approach. 

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Experiencing the effects of framing psychology?

How does framing influence you?

Some people might have proclivities, mental health conditions, or insecurities that may make them more susceptible to framing than others. Understanding this can help someone take the appropriate steps to guard themselves and mitigate their personal framing-related risks. Online therapy can also be a helpful resource, as a therapist can help many to identify their risk profile and the personal effects that framing can have on their life. 

Can online therapy help people experiencing framing effects?

Online therapists can use framing techniques to help you to actively mitigate the effects of framing. Additionally, learning how to see something from a different point of view can give new insights when it comes to making decisions or managing situations, and can also help you guard your perspective so that you are not too easily swayed. Reframing is often taught through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which can also help strengthen your critical thinking skills.

With this in mind, we might consider the possible barriers that many may face with in-person therapeutic intervention. Sometimes, we don’t have time to travel to a therapist’s office! Online therapy can be a strong alternative option in this context, empowering many to connect with a counselor at any time from their home or safe space. 

Is online therapy worth it? 

A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found details that suggest that online therapy offers clinical outcomes that are comparable to traditional therapy for youths and adults who are seeking psychological support for a range of mental health conditions and needs. 

Takeaway

Becoming aware of the framing effect can help you critically evaluate any given choice that's presented to you—possibly offering a higher degree of awareness that can help you make better decisions. Online therapy can be a helpful supportive option as well. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in need.  
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