What Is Framing in Psychology?

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Psychological framing defines an idea, issue or reality based upon context. The concept of framing disputes the theory of rational choice. The experiments of the researchers Tversky and Khneman in 1981 suggest that the way a decision is presented has a large impact upon the choices that result.

Framing, in the psychological sense, relies upon perceived gains and losses. Prospect theory, according to Tversky and Kahneman, states that people value a certain gain more than a probable gain, but they place equal or greater importance upon probable losses as they do upon certain losses. Prospect theory is the concept that drives psychological framing. Framing impacts both large and small decisions throughout a person's day. People perceive sensory stimuli according to the frames that surround them. Words frame perception based upon the thoughts and feelings they evoke. Appearance frames perception based upon the way eyes process visual cues. Feelings frame perception based upon the way emotional response influences thoughts.

Framing is useful for advertising, learning, socializing and other situations where influence is an important factor in outcome. Effective framing strategically magnifies the losses or gains possible depending upon the desired outcome. Framing is an essential and inevitable part of communication between people.