What Is the Framing Effect?

How Does the Framing Effect Apply to Marketing?

Jason Quey
Last updated: Aug 14, 2020
Originally published: Apr 11, 2019


The framing effect refers to the bias where people react differently depending on the frame of reference.

For example, people will respond differently to a choice when presented as a loss or as a gain. A loss is believed to be more significant than an equivalent gain. Likewise, people have a preference to a sure gain over a possible gain, and a preference to a possible loss over a sure loss.

Framing Effect Examples:

Word Choice. Words matter. And the words you choose paint a different picture. No one knows this better than copywriting legends like David Oglivy, Eugene Schwartz, and John Caples. Don’t believe me?

In one study, a group of 45 students were shown films of traffic accidents. After watching the film, students were asked questions about the accident, including the question, “About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?”

What would you say? If you are like the students, your answer would be 31.8 MPH.

However, the students did not know that one word was changed for each of the students. If the researchers change the word “contacted” to “hit,” the cars were estimated to be going at 34 MPH. And if instead they “smashed” each other, the students thought the cars went 40.8 MPH. That’s 28.3% faster, just by changing a single word!

See Also: Prospect Theory, Anchoring Effect

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Jason Quey

I am the CEO and Founder of Growth Ramp. I enjoy serving early-stage startups and later-stage scale-ups on their journey from idea to scale.

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