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Framing Effects and Arenas of Choice: Your Money or Your Life?

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/obhd.1997.2725
  • Economics


Abstract This paper investigates the consistency of outcome framing effects on choice across two arenas of outcome: human life and money. Past research has yielded notable variability in the magnitude of framing effects. One possible contributor to the variation in magnitude is outcome arena. Past research has varied along this dimension without systematically assessing its effects. Undergraduates ( N= 297) responded to three decision scenarios involving either human lives or money in which outcomes were framed either positively or negatively. Based on prospect theory, an interaction between framing and arena was predicted, such that a greater framing effect was expected in the human life arena (i.e., more risky choices were expected when outcomes involved human life than money in the negative frame and the reverse in the positive frame). Results were only partly consistent with this prediction. Regardless of frame, subjects made riskier choices when outcomes involved human lives rather than money. This was not expected for the positive frame. Even though human lives presumably have greater utility than dollars, subjects in the positive framing condition made riskier choices regarding human life than money. Additionally, no overall framing effect was observed. There was a significant sex by frame interaction such that only women exhibited framing effects on choice. This extends the finding of sex differences in framing to the monetary arena. This has important implications for the conduct of future studies on framing as well as for the interpretation of past and future framing research.

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