No Need to Refrain from Reframing

4 Jan

People respond more to losses than to gains.

If you look at people’s New Years Resolutions, many more will say “I want to lose xx pounds” or “I want to wear xx size” than will say “I want to be xx stronger or xx healthier.” How many more times have you said “I should eat less junk food” than you’ve said “I should eat more fruits and veggies.”

Those statements are often interchangeable but it depends on how you frame them.

For example: 3 barges sunk, each holding $200,000 worth of cargo.

If given the option between:
A. You can save the cargo of one sunken barge worth $200,000
B. You have 1/3 probability of saving the cargo of all three sunken barges, totaling $600,000 and 2/3 chance of saving nothing

71% of respondents pick A. Makes sense, right? A is less risky.

If the choices are reframed as:
C. You will lose two of the three sunken cargoes, worth $400,000.
D. You have 2/3rd probability of resulting in the loss of all three cargoes and the entire $600,000 but a 1/3rd probability of losing no cargo

Then 80% choose Option D even though it is exactly the same as option B that only 29% of people liked before.


“The strikingly different responses reveal that people are risk averse when a problem is posed in terms of gain (barges saved) but risk seeking when a problem is posed in terms of avoiding losses (barges lost). -The Hidden Traps of Decision Making

Don’t fall into framing traps. For me, in my quest for seeking joy, I am already putting this into practice.

I could whine about how cold it is outside. Or I could think about my cozy apt, my warm layers, my ability to take a week off work to get 3 MBA credits done (which yes, does require walking outside in the cold, but so does going to work).

I could whine about how my IT Band is sore and I may not be able to run my March marathon. Or I could think about all the races I’ve run, including one marathon and 6 ultras, and how happy my legs are to rest, and how strong my arms and core are getting with daily weight-training. Someday, I’ll be running faster and stronger.

When your mind frames something negatively, reframe it positively. It’s a good mental challenge.

As a kid, I was pretty darn good at finding Waldo (Where’s Waldo?). As an adult, I want to become pretty darn good at finding joy.

I read a lot this weekend about decision making.


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