Evaluative polarity words in risky choice framing

Journal of Pragmatics 106:20-38 (2016)
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Abstract

This article is concerned with how we make decisions based on how problems are presented to us and the effect that the framing of the problem might have on our choices. Current philosophical and psychological accounts of the framing effect in experiments such as the Asian Disease Problem concern reference points and domains. We question the importance of reference points and domains. Instead, we adopt a linguistic perspective focussing on the role of the evaluative polarity evoked by the words - negativeand positive - used to describe the options in the decision problem. We show that the evaluative polarity of the different wordings in the ADP better explain participants’ behaviour than reference points and domains. We propose two models in which the values given to evaluative polarity words directly influence the strength of framing. The results indicate that linguistic considerations regarding evaluative polarity have to be considered in relation to the ADP. The account resembles Fuzzy-Trace-Theory but allows for thestrength of evaluative polarity to directly affect behaviour. In the discussion, we also assess how evaluative polarity relates to negation, antonyms and the communicative frame within which the choices are presented.

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Annika Wallin
Lund University