The Influence of Framing on Risky Decisions: A Meta-analysis

Organ Behav Hum Decis Process. 1998 Jul;75(1):23-55. doi: 10.1006/obhd.1998.2781.


In framing studies, logically equivalent choice situations are differently described and the resulting preferences are studied. A meta-analysis of framing effects is presented for risky choice problems which are framed either as gains or as losses. This evaluates the finding that highlighting the positive aspects of formally identical problems does lead to risk aversion and that highlighting their equivalent negative aspects does lead to risk seeking. Based on a data pool of 136 empirical papers that reported framing experiments with nearly 30,000 participants, we calculated 230 effect sizes. Results show that the overall framing effect between conditions is of small to moderate size and that profound differences exist between research designs. Potentially relevant characteristics were coded for each study. The most important characteristics were whether framing is manipulated by changing reference points or by manipulating outcome salience, and response mode (choice vs. rating/judgment). Further important characteristics were whether options differ qualitatively or quantitatively in risk, whether there is one or multiple risky events, whether framing is manipulated by gain/loss or by task-responsive wording, whether dependent variables are measured between- or within- subjects, and problem domains. Sample (students vs. target populations) and unit of analysis (individual vs. group) was not influential. It is concluded that framing is a reliable phenomenon, but that outcome salience manipulations, which constitute a considerable amount of work, have to be distinguished from reference point manipulations and that procedural features of experimental settings have a considerable effect on effect sizes in framing experiments. Copyright 1998 Academic Press.