All Frames Are Not Created Equal: A Typology of Framing Effects

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Accentuate the positive or accentuate the negative? The literature has been mixed as to how the alternative framing of information in positive or negative terms affects judgments and decisions. We argue that this is because different studies have employed different operational definitions of framing and thus have tapped different underlying processes. We develop a typology to distinguish between three different kinds of valence framing effects. First we discuss the standard risky choice framing effect introduced by Tversky and Kahneman (1981) to illustrate how valence affects willingness to take a risk. Then we discuss attribute framing, which affects the evaluation of object or event characteristics, and goal framing, which affects the persuasiveness of a communication. We describe the distinctions, provide a number of examples of each type, and discuss likely theoretical mechanisms underlying each type of framing effect. Our typology helps explain and resolve apparent confusions in the literature, ties together studies with common underlying mechanisms, and serves as a guide to future research and theory development. We conclude that a broader perspective, focused on the cognitive and motivational consequences of valence-based encoding, opens the door to a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of framing effects.

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Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, v. 76, issue 2, p. 149-188