Decision Framing

Decision Framing

Decision Framing Jonathan Poland

Decision framing refers to the way in which a choice or dilemma is presented or structured. This includes the language used to describe the options, the context in which the decision is made, and any additional information that is provided. Decision framing can be used to influence the decision-making process and the choices that are made. It can also be used to improve the quality of decisions by providing decision-makers with the necessary information and context to make informed choices. The following are common types of decision framing.

Preserving Ambiguity

Preserving ambiguity is the idea that a decision statement be as wide open as possible in order to allow for creative decisions. This principle can be applied throughout the decision making process to avoid imposing assumptions and constraints too early. For example, a decision statement such as “what type of park should we create?” assumes that a particular area will become a park. A statement such as “what type of public space should we create?” leaves open more possibilities.

Creativity of Constraints

Creativity of constraints is the idea that well designed initial constraints can improve creativity and efficiency. For example, a decision statement such as “how should I get an education without paying any tuition?” is far more difficult to answer than “where should I go to university?” As such, the more constrained decision statement requires more creative alternatives. Constraints can be added and removed from a decision statement to generate alternatives. For example, “what university program should I choose with the constraint that it needs to pay for itself with higher salary prospects within 5 years?”

Positive Framing

Framing a decision in an optimistic light. For example, “what steps should we take to delight every customer?”

Negative Framing

Framing a decision in an pessimistic light. For example, “what should we do to prevent customer defections given that our products are lower quality than the competition?”


A decision that is framed with complex language and structure such that a regular person has trouble understanding it. For example, a legal agreement for software that needs to be accepted by every user that contains complexities that only a lawyer would fully understand.

Choice Architecture

Breaking a decision into a series of successive choices with a structure. Often used to influence. For example, a marketing page for a bicycle may begin by asking you to select a color and then proceed to selecting a model and options. This can result in escalating commitment on the part of the customer.

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is an incorrect assertion that a decision is between two alternatives when more options exist. For example, do we want to compete on price or quality?

False Alternative

Misrepresenting an alternative. For example:
Do you want to subscribe to our investing newsletter?
✓ Yes ✘ I want to invest recklessly without being informed

Decoy Framing

Placing an obvious bad choice in a list of alternatives. This is commonly done in price lists. When customers see that one price is better than the others they may feel an impulse to buy.
Ice Cream Cones
1 cone – $3
2 cones – $8
5 cones – $10

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