Frame Choices to Your Advantage
Welcome to the fifth lesson of the course. The key message in this lesson: you can frame choices to the other side in a manner that leads them to select the alternative that you prefer.
The way that we frame choices can have a huge impact on decisions. For example, suppose that you are the director of public health in a city that is preparing for an unusual strain of flu virus that you anticipate will kill 600 senior citizens. Your two top assistants, Thelma and Louise, have developed plans for combatting the disease. With Thelma’s plan, 200 of the 600 seniors will be saved. With Louise’s plan, there is a 1/3 chance that all 600 seniors will be saved and 2/3 chance that none of them will survive. Thelma and Louise have been negotiating unsuccessfully over which plan to adopt and they now want you to decide. Which plan would you select?
Now assume that you ask Thelma and Louise to go back to the drawing board to develop alternative plans. Thelma comes up with a plan where 400 of the senior citizens will die. Under Louise’s plan, there is a 1/3 chance that no one will die and a 2/3 chance that 600 seniors will die. Here again, they are unsuccessful in negotiating an agreement and they ask you to decide. Which plan would you select?
This scenario is based on research by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (“The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice,” Science) and is also discussed in Bazerman and Neale. They discovered that in the first situation, almost three-fourths of participants in their study selected Thelma’s plan, while in the second situation, close to 80% selected Louise’s plan. These results are striking because the plans in the two situations are identical. For example, in both of Thelma’s plans 400 senior citizens will die.
What caused the difference in results? In the first situation your choice is framed in terms of saving people, which is a gain—a positive choice. In the second situation your choice is framed in terms of senior citizens dying, which is a loss—a negative choice. When faced with gains people become risk averse and select the sure thing (Thelma’s plan that saves 200 senior citizens). When faced with losses people are more willing to take chances (Louise’s plan where there is a 1/3 chance that no one will die and a 2/3 chance that 600 seniors will die).
This is a powerful tool in negotiations with your boss, members of your team, your customers, and negotiators from other companies. Framing the choices you give them as either gains or losses has a significant impact on their decisions.
In the next lesson we examine why it is important for you to look at a negotiation from the perspective of the other side.
Share with friends