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framing effect

Contributor(s): Trea Lavery

Framing effect is a cognitive bias in which the brain makes decisions about information depending upon how the information is presented. Framing effect is often used in marketing to influence decision-makers and purchases. It takes advantage of the tendency for people to view the same information but respond to it in different ways, depending on whether a specific option is presented in a positive frame or in a negative frame.

Marketers commonly use three types of frames to influence consumer decisions: 

Attribute framing - this frame highlights one characteristic of an object or situation in either a positive or a negative light. When the frame emphasizes a desirable attribute, the customer is more likely to take action. When the frame emphasizes an undersirable attribute, the customer is less likely to take action. The challenge with this type of frame is to understand what qualities the consumer thinks are desirable. 

Risky choice framing - this frame presents information in terms of a gamble that will result in a loss or a gain. When options are framed in terms of the gain, the customer is more likely to take action. The challenge with this type of frame is to understand how much risk the consumer is willing to assume in order to avoid a loss.

Goal framing - this frame encourages participation by emphasizing the negative outcome of not participating. When options are framed in terms of what will be missed by not participating, the customer is more likely to take action. The challenge with this type of frame is to understand which negative outcomes will motivate the consumer to take action.  

An advertiser can use the framing effect to change the way that a consumer views a product simply by manipulating a few words in an advertisement. However, the same techniques can also be used by competitors. For example, While Company A may promote its product by saying it has a 90 percent success rate, the company's competitor can change the frame and say that Company A's product will fail one in ten times.

This was last updated in February 2017

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