The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.
Decisions are based on the way choices are framed. This is because people use emotion when making decisions, leading to some options feeling more desirable than others. For example, when given £50, we are more likely to gamble the money if we stand to lose £30 than if we are going to keep £20.
Although both options are mathematically equivalent, the thought of losing money evokes a powerful emotional response and we are more likely to gamble to try to avoid losing money. This cognitive bias, first described by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman in the 1980s, is known as the “framing effect”. Despite this phenomenon being well documented, scientists are still trying to understand why our emotions have such a powerful influence on decision making.