Framing, defaults, trust

Framing Effects, Default Effects, and Trust (paper here)

Craig R. M. McKenzie (UC San Diego), Michael J. Liersch (New York University), Shlomi Sher (UC San Diego)

Framing effects and default effects are often seen as examples of inconsistent preferences and are usually explained in purely intrapersonal cognitive terms. We argue that these effects can be explained in rational, social terms, at least in part. First, frames and defaults are usually generated by another social entity (e.g., a speaker, a policymaker). Second, speakers and policymakers tend to select frames and defaults in ways that convey choice-relevant information to decision makers (e.g., listeners). As a result, when listeners respond "inconsistently" to different frames and defaults, it need not indicate inconsistent preferences. In line with this social approach, we show that framing and default effects are decreased (and default effects might even reverse) when the source of a frame or default is distrusted. Viewing framing and default effects from a social, rational perspective leads to a deeper understanding of these phenomena and suggests novel predictions about when they will and will not occur outside the laboratory.










  • Hugo Mercier
    Hugo Mercier 18 July 2011 (15:14)

    Thanks for a great paper. The new results are really exciting! I only have a quick comment: at some point you mention that “The cooperative principle makes everyday conversation possible.” Well, that cannot be entirely true. As Sperber and Wilson have pointed out, people understand speakers they know to be liars. Even in purely non-zero sum situation (say, poker or some other game), people can still understand what they say to each other — they may pay it no heed whatsoever, they still understand. That’s one of the reasons why it’s more satisfying to simply use the more general framework of relevance theory. In ‘Epistemic Vigilance’, Sperber and his colleagues set out a nice framework to look at the interactions of trust and relevance.

  • Craig McKenzie 26 July 2011 (12:40)

    Hi, Hugo. Thanks for your comment and your pointer. Our mention of “everyday conversation” was intended to mean typical conversation, not all conversation. We simply meant that assuming that the speaker is cooperative allows for the uncountably many conversational inferences we make each day, such as when we interpret the ostensibly odd utterance, “Can you open the window?”, as a request to open the window. And of course we show that people are sensitive to the trustworthiness of the source of the frame or default. So, far from assuming that all conversation is cooperative, our argument and findings suggest that people are skilled at adjusting their interpretations of communications that are unlikely to be cooperative.