How you frame an argument often matters more that what you say. Discover three key framing techniques that you and your team can use to generate more compelling arguments.
- In 1974, memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus' groundbreaking study revealed that how questions are framed influence eyewitness testimony. Subjects witnessed a video of a car accident. Then they were asked to estimate how fast the cars had been going. Each subject was asked the same question. The only difference was a swap of the framing word. How fast were the cars going when they, a, contacted each other, b, hit each other, or c, smashed each other. Can you guess which framing words corresponded with faster times? (loud car crash) Yep, smash was fastest, then hit, then contact. How questions are framed matters, even in eyewitness testimony. How information is presented or framed influences our judgment and decisions in ways that defy reason. Let's dive into the techniques for using framing to make more compelling arguments. Number one, decide whether to use a negative or positive frame. Let's say you want Acme enterprise's proposal to be accepted over Titan enterprise's proposal. Acme should win is a positive frame, Titan should lose is a negative frame. Is there a difference? To facts, no. To our brains, yes. If you want the focus to be on why Acme should win, they provide the best price, customer support, latest technology, it's best to frame as the positive. If you want the focus to be on why Titan should lose, too expensive, outdated technology, frame as a negative. Number two, decide whether to frame your argument in terms of a loss or gain. Would you take this coin toss gamble, tails you lose $100, heads you win $150. If you're like most people, your answer would be no, because it's psychologically harder to lose $100 than to gain 150. Psychologically, but not entirely rationally. Because of this loss aversion, more people will be convinced to avoid a loss than to win a gain especially in uncertain and stressful situations. Here's how to know whether to use a gain or loss to frame. If the outcome of the message is clear, gain-framed arguments can be more persuasive than loss-framed. Here's an example of a clear gain frame. You'll get a favored vendor status this year if you ship on time. If the outcome is uncertain, loss frames are more persuasive than gain frames. An example of a loss frame, if you don't ship on time, you won't get favored vendor status this year. Gain frame, you'll live longer if you stop texting while driving. Loss frame, you'll die sooner if you don't stop texting while driving. Number three, match emotional frames to your objective. Think about that eyewitness testimony experiment and the different frames used for questioning, contacted, low emotion, hit, moderate emotion, or smashed, high emotion frame. Use emotion frames to enhance negative or positive framing. If you want the cars to be perceived as faster, smash them, slower, hit, slower still, contact. If not investing in a new technology will result in disruptions, will the disruptions be annoying, substantial, or massive? Think about framing your arguments to match your desired outcome. Also, be on the lookout for others using frames and they'll be less likely to sway your own judgments and decisions.
- Comparing critical and strategic thinking
- Minimizing bad judgements
- Recognizing cognitive bias
- Using counterfactual thinking
- Overcoming loss aversion
- Avoiding logical fallacies
- Creating a culture of critical thinking