“The Effects of Framing” by Tatiana Herman

My guess is that most people if not all, who are reading this, have at one time or another taken a survey. Surveys are used in various areas of life, such as on social networking sites, dating sites, and in academic and research settings. When survey questioning involves sensitive situations, for example political polls, the wording of questions or framing, becomes a precise art. The questions on a survey ought to be phrased as objectively as possible in order to not sway those taking the survey one way or another. Framing can also be used in everyday situations.

I’m currently studying psychology and working towards a therapy-based career. Being a therapist includes questioning clients that could range in mood from defensive to apathetic to compliant. These moods can often be influenced by the atmosphere the therapist sets and his or her technique in questioning. I work in a place where many of my co-workers come to me for advice. Yesterday, I had a friend- we’ll call her Nicole- ask me if I thought she should stay with her boyfriend who is currently in jail. He is her child’s father and she once loved him a great deal. I could tell by the way she talked about their relationship that she hoped they could still have a future together, but she expressed a lack of faith in his ability to change based on recent experiences with him.

Even though I had a strong opinion that she deserved better and should look elsewhere, I knew that it would ultimately be her decision and that if I presented myself as too opinionated she might feel judged and not ever confide in me again. So when I could have asked her why she allowed herself to ever be with a guy like that and have a child with him, I held back and phrased my question differently. I instead asked what led up to her decision to become involved with him. In this way, she was able to see for herself that she had looked for the wrong qualities in a boyfriend and that to find a meaningful and lasting relationship as she originally wanted, she would need to reconstruct her criteria for a boyfriend and potential husband. Even though I wasn’t consciously thinking about framing, I was aware in that situation that how I presented myself verbally to Nicole would influence her views and resulting behavior concerning her dilemma.

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