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Asian Disease Problem Heading

Framing Effects     Memory and Illusions      Information Processing     Fuzzy-trace theory    Discussion

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The most famous and robust example of framing effects was illustrated by Tversky and Kahnemansí (1981) Asian disease problem.

  PROBLEM 1 (N=152):

Imagine that the US is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people.  Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed.  Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows.

Program A:  If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved [72%].

Program B:  If Program B is adopted, there is 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and 2/3 probability that no people will be saved [28%].

Which of the two programs would you favor?

Tversky and Kahneman (1981) found that the majority choice in this problem was risk averse: the prospect of saving 200 lives with certainty was more promising than the probability of a one-in-three chance of saving 600 lives.  This risky prospect B was of equal expected value as the first prospect A.

A second group of respondents were given the same story of the Asian disease problem, but were provided with different program options.

PROBLEM 2 (N=155):

Program C:  If Program C is adopted 400 people will die [22%].

Program D:  If Program D is adopted there is 1/3 probability that nobody will die, and 2/3 probability that 600 people will die [78%].

Which of the two programs would you favor?

The majority of respondents in the second problem choice risk taking: the certain death of 400 people is less acceptable than the two-in-three chance that 600 people will die.  Prospect theory predicts how people would behave within each frame.

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