People’s decisions are extremely influenced unconsciously by the way the choices are offered. These are known as cognitive bias and are influenced by heuristics (e.g., mental shortcuts), which occasionally can be correct and lead people to take the finest decision; but they could lead to wrong decisions as well. An example of cognitive bias is the framing effect, in which the person reacts differently to the questions depending on how the options are presented or worded at that present time. In general, humans want to avoid risk (e.g., losses) and choose the option that highlights positive aspects. However, humans tend to choose the risky option when both options are presented negatively.
In a study done by Tversky and Kahneman (1981), the effects of decision problems were observed under various conditions through the choices of different groups participants. One of the experiments had two groups answering two different questions. The first group was presented with a scenario followed by options of two different program solutions (e.g., Program A and Program B), in which participants had to pick one. The second group had the same scenario with two different alternative programs. The first group was presented with risk aversion choices (e.g., gains), while the second group was presented with risk-taking choices (e.g., losses). The first group chose the option in which lives were certainly saved, while the second group chose to risk lives to avoid a certain loss. This is a common decision for humans when the amount of people dying is unacceptable. This study provides evidence that a rational decision-maker will always choose the option that provides the more benefits (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981).
Tversky and Kahneman (1981) investigated the framing effects on adults using multiple decision problems, though no investigation was reported for adolescents. Chien, Lin, and Worthley (1996) conducted a study to investigate if similar framing effects could be observed in early adolescents as it was observed in adults from Tversky and Kahneman (1981) study. Chien et al. (1996) used four framing problems adopted by Tversky and Kahneman (1981) study, which two involved disease problems and two involved money problems. The results demonstrated similar framing effects on early adolescents, suggesting that framing effects function “out of awareness” (Chien, Lin, & Worthley, 1996). Chien et al. (1996) results suggested that frames work by slowly modifying people’s understandings of the context implying risk or benefits. In the study, most of the adolescents did not demonstrate being affected by the negative and positive framing, however, they chose the same response option for both frames (e.g., negative and positive). Similar results from Tversky and Kahneman (1981) study were obtained; adolescents demonstrated preferences for certain outcomes just like the adults because they did not want to lose lives or money. In the condition where the potential loss was presented, adolescents chose the risk to increase the possibility of gain. Gender and knowledge in mathematics had a minor effect on choices taken by the adolescents.
When evaluating a similar situation, the psychological ideas, which revolve around decision making and assessing the possibilities and results, allow the person to view it from a variety of different perspectives (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981). However, there is evidence when significant attribute-information is missing, it affects general interpretations of the choices provided in two different ways; either people use provided information to make assumptions of the absent information, or the assumptions are simply affected by the absent information without considering if the absent information is positive or negative (Johnson, 1987). Johnson (1987) investigated if the effects of assumptions and the Incomplete Information Bias of the known information could be manipulated separately without influencing each other. Results indicated that as the price increases, the mean purchase satisfaction ratings for price-only stimuli do not decrease as the price-quality combinations. The satisfaction is decreased when the price of the product is increased, but the offered quality is continuous (Johnson, 1987).