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Hidden Traps in Decision Making - FRAMING

“Sometimes the fault lies not in the decision-making process but rather in the mind of decision-maker” -John S. Hammond

 

Do You See A Duck Or A Rabbit? Your Answer Reveals Something About Your Brain! 

The ambiguity itself is the point and reveals how the previous human experiences and preconceived notions we all carry around influence the framing effect during decisions.

One of the most powerful influences on any decision is how the issue to be decided is framed.

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts (known as heuristics), mostly systematic patterns of deviation from normality and/or rationality in judgment.; it occurs when decision-makers are limited by the amount of time to make a choice as well as the amount of information at our disposal.

 Just because something has worked in the past does not mean that it will work again, and relying on an existing heuristic can make it difficult to see alternative solutions or come up with new ideas.

 

Framing Bias

The world is vastly complex. Humans have never before been bombarded by so much information daily. We cannot process all the information around us. Therefore, we must resort to mental shortcuts to make decisions quickly and effectively.

Researchers have identified a whole series of such flaws in the way we think in making decisions. 

Framing the problem the right way is important because the human brain relies too heavily on the first piece of information received (the “anchor”) while making decisions through mental shortcuts (heuristics) strategies; to simplify things so we don't have time to analyze every detail. 

 It gives disproportionate weight to be initial data.

Framing bias is a type of cognitive bias where mental judgment is based on the way the information is presented, rather than the data itself. The same facts presented in different ways can lead to different judgments.

Some of the driving elements behind those mental ‘Heuristics or mental shortcuts’ in our intuitive mind are our own hidden beliefs & prejudices(Cognitive Biases), which are shaped by past experiences and the environment in which a person grew up.

What makes all these ‘heuristics’ so dangerous is their invisibility to the decision-maker. It helps people make decisions based on limited information but we fail to see or recognize them.

The first step in any decision-making process is framing the problem in the right way as it can influence the choices we make.

Framing Bias is not just confined to the ‘problem definition’ but prevalent widely in many situations affecting our decision-making ability. Let’s see some examples.

 

FRAMING POSITIVE vs NEGATIVE

In the early 1900s, a sales manager approached the Advertising Guru Claude Hopkins for marketing a toilet soap made up of Palm and Olive Oils.

Hopkins studied the market. Every competitor was promoting its toilet soaps through negatively framed messages.

Pears targeted the problems of wrinkles if the consumer failed to buy its soap.

“No girl can afford to risk perspiration odor. Men cannot stand it!” framed by Cashmere Bouquet soap.

When everyone was framing negative messages, Hopkins framed a positive message. He wrote, “All the world loves natural beauty. You can gain it in this simple way… using this product. This product has brought the enticement of a fresh clear skin to thousands”.

The competitors projected an image of a consumer obtaining a loss by not purchasing their product whereas Hopkins shared an image of a consumer obtaining gain by purchasing his product.

 Here are more examples of how framing leads to distorted interpretations:

A medical procedure with a 90% chance of survival sounds more appealing than one with a 10% chance of mortality.

If the real price of a good is $20, then selling it as $10 off a $30 good sounds better than a $5 surcharge to a $15 good.

In a sports game, saying something like “the Patriots lost” evokes different feelings than “the Rams won,” even though these two are logically equivalent.

 

How to reduce cognitive and decision-making biases:

To decrease the incidence of clinical errors in judgment, it is critical to learn and practice strategies to mitigate the impact of cognitive biases and heuristics. These strategies are frequently referred to as “debiasing” techniques. 

Develop insight and awareness. 

The greatest danger is when managers believe that they are immune to errors or biases in their thinking. You are not immune because you are human. Invest time in reflection rather than investing time in discounting your humanness. So, the study indicated that this type of training could reduce the effects of cognitive bias by 29%.

Practice metacognition.

Metacognition is about learning to learn or thinking about thinking, the ability to think about and regulate one’s own thoughts. 

I recommend practicing self-inquiry as well as PDCA ( Plan-Do-Check -Action)!

During the planning phase, before starting on the task, questions address how previous work relates to the current work, how best to start the task at hand, and how the goal can be achieved. The aim here is to increase awareness of different strategies and to help managers choose a strategy and draw on prior work.

In the monitoring stage, while the task is underway, ask whether the current approach is working, and what can be improved.

After the task has finished, during the evaluation stage, questions relate to whether or not the goal was reached and what would be better next time. Make a habit of considering other possibilities by frequently asking: What else might this be? Do not be hesitant to consult with colleagues when time permits. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes or ears can detect something that you don’t. 

In other words, to engage in meta-cognitive practices, which is literally thinking about one’s thinking. Regularly step back from a problem so you can consider your thinking process. Get curious about all aspects of the situation, continually reflecting upon how you are approaching the problem. Ask: How else might I think about this?

Check your ego. Take time to reflect if you are overly invested in being right rather than discovering what you might have missed. Ask: What might I be missing? Reframe errors as opportunities to learn and grow rather than evidence of your competency, worth, or status. 

 

Conclusion:

Decision-making biases can be reduced by consciously practicing unbiased and logical decision-making approaches. 

In conclusion, Bias should be acknowledged, discussed, and counteracted proactively and systematically. So, an organization becomes more empowered to scale trust, responsibility, and accountability. 

An open company relies on the soundness of human judgment. In other words, it is imperative to make this judgment as objective and as trustworthy as possible.

 

Loreti

Loreti

May 13, 2021