Framing Effects and Risky Decisions in Young Adults
We used the theoretical framework of fuzzy-trace theory to explore framing effects in young adults and their relationship to real world risk perceptions and behaviors. One hundred and two Cornell University undergraduates completed a decision making task involving hypothetical money and completed a survey that assessed their level of gist-based (intuitive) thinking about risk, verbatim (quantitative) risk perceptions, sexual history, and various personality traits. The decision making task used a within-subjects framing design; each participant chose between taking a sure option and gamble for problems varying in magnitude and risk level. Each problem in the gain frame was analogous to one in the loss frame. An overall standard framing pattern (risk aversion for gains, risk seeking for losses) was observed. Preference for the gamble also decreased with increasing levels of risk and magnitude of outcomes. Individual differences in task performance related to a number of survey measures. Most importantly, susceptibility to framing was linked to sexual activity, a measure of risky sexual behavior. Standard framers had the fewest number of sexual partners while reverse framers had the most. Furthermore, sexual activity negatively correlated with gist-based thinking about risk. Gambling in the gain frame correlated positively with sensation seeking scores, which correlated negatively with gist-based thinking. Overall gambling negatively correlated with intentions to use birth control. These results have implications for using framing tasks to study real world behavior and for the use of gist-based interventions to reduce young adult risk taking.
Decision Making; Risk; Young Adults; Adolescents; Framing; Sexual Health; Fuzzy-Trace Theory; Gist
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