You’ve been framed!

What is framing?

Having often heard the word, you may have asked yourself ‘What is framing? Why is it important?’. Framing is the way in which information is provided to us. Based on this our understanding and perception of this information can change. This is used all the time in marketing, supermarkets, small stores, big chains, the works! You will be hard pressed to find a place where framing is not being used.

Why does framing matter?

In my opinion, understanding the framing effect and being able to spot when it is being used against you is crucial. Companies rely on these mental shortcuts we use to entice us into buying their brand or product. Although many companies may be trying to provide you with a good or service, they will always be trying to find ways to make more profit. And be using these framing techniques, they can do just that.

Example of framing in the food industry?

There are many examples in the food industry. But lets say you have the example below. Excuse the terrible drawing, its just to make my explanation a little clearer.
So lets imagine you walk into your local supermarket and you need to get some yoghurt for your afternoon snack. You are not wanting a ‘full fat’ option and instead look at the reduced fat options.
You head to the aisle and are faced with two identical tubs of yoghurt. They are both the same price, same placement on the shelf and directly next to one another.
In this example, you are more likely to pick the 70% less fat option on the right than the 30% option on the left. However, these are obviously contain the same amount of fat, the only difference is the way in which they are presented to you.

But why did I pick that yoghurt?

The main reason is due to the mental shortcuts your brain does when making decisions. These heuristics can be affected by the availability of the information. With the number 70% being greater than 30%, our minds instantly believe that this must be the better option. In that instant we make a choice to buy this product, instead of looking at any other yogurt options. In a world where we are faced with 100 different types of diet yogurt, we are heavily relying on a decision making system which is not optimal or totally efficient.

Give me another example?

So you say to me, okay Mariam I understand that. But in both cases I’m buying essentially the same thing so it’s not that big of a deal. Let me give you a more costly example…
Lets say you are signing up for a new course in understanding your diet and wellbeing. This person has promised to teach you everything you need to know. You are really keen to learn, and you are willing to pay for this course.
They give you two options:

Diet and wellbeing course

£ 495



Pay in monthly instalments of

£109 for 5 months 

So you say that’s great! I can start right away and pay in monthly instalments!

But if you actually work out the total of £109 every 5 months, you will realise it equals £545. You will pay £50 more for the exact same course.

 That’s a pricey and unfair mistake, don’t you think? 

What is the solution?

In short, there are no real solutions to this framing effect. We are constantly bombarded with these sorts of offers, discounts, diet foods, etc.
However if we are more aware, papers have shown we can reduce the effects of framing and increase our mental accounting ability. So stay aware and watch out for everyday framing. If you know any other examples feel free to comment them below!


Thaler, R. H. (1999). Mental accounting matters. Journal of Behavioral decision making12(3), 183-206.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology5(2), 207-232.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. science185(4157), 1124-1131.

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