How a decision is framed, changes what you choose.

Kahneman, D., Tversky, A. (1981) The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice


Which would you choose:

  • A medical treatment with a 70% survival rate?
  • Or a treatment with a 30% mortality rate?
  • A product with 80% effectiveness, or a product that failed 2 out of every 10 uses?
  • A glass half full, or a glass half empty?

Each choice is identical. But in each case, you are more likely to choose the first. The use of different words, settings and context have a powerful effect on decision makers. It causes us to choose one over the other, just by how they are presented.Framing is one of the strongest biases in decision making.There are three framing types1:

Risky choice framing.

People choose riskier framed options when faced with negative choices.2

Attribute framing.
People choose options where more preferable characteristics of the object or outcome are highlighted. (e.g. choosing survival rate over mortality rate)

Goal framing.
The goal of an action is highlighted over the outcomes. (e.g. we forgo a gain than sustain an equivalent loss.)

How Might We

  • How might we emphasise the positive attributes and qualities of a product?
  • How might we change the wording in a campaign to frame the decision better?
  • How might we present an option as riskier for negative situations?

Use with HEART

  • Adoption: frame the positive features and benefits of a product to increase the number of people choosing to signup and use it. It’s especially useful in campaigns and intervention designs.
  • Retention: make sure each new decision is framed in the best way. When both options are negative, preference a riskier framing. Highlight positive outcomes over negative. Or highlight the end goals over outcomes.
  • Happiness: with the right framing, people will feel happier about making a choice. This increases a person's satisfaction in starting a new behaviour and then continuing that behaviour.

Keep reading

Read paper: Druckman, J. (2001). Evaluating framing effects

Read paper: Tversky, A., Kahneman, D. The Framing of decisions and the psychology of choice

Read paper: Guo, L., Trueblood, J., Diederich, A. Thinking Fast Increases Framing Effects in Risky Decision Making


  • 1. Levin, I. P., Schneider, S. L., & Gaeth, G. J. (1998). All frames are not created equal: A typology and critical analysis of framing effects. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 76(2), 149–188.
  • 2. Peters, E., Levin, I. (2008) Dissecting the risky-choice framing effect: Numeracy as an individual-difference factor in weighting risky and riskless options. Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, no. 6, August 2008, pp. 435-448