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Decisions and Framing

In the book How We Decide, the author describes the thinking of gamblers. It was confirmed in a college study.  When the choice of placing a bet for $50 is couched in terms of playing a game to gain 20 dollars, 42% choose to take the chance. When that same amount is described as a game to possibly lose 30 dollars, 62% chose not to play the game. Losing hurts more than winning and the study just framed it in terms of the negative versus positive.

Marketers and advertisers have learned to use the psychology of “framing” on us. It explains why a person chooses to buy meat that is labeled 85% lean instead of being marketed as 15 percent fat. It is also why we go to the doctor and ask an opinion on a procedure or surgery to fight an illness, and expect to be told about the success of the procedure. We are comforted to hear that there is a 98% success rate, not that 2% are worse after the procedure.

In our law practice, we also see the impact of framing during  jury trials. It’s why the legislature has adopted Virginia code section  8.01-379.1, to authorize how many times that the amount of money sought in the lawsuit may be discussed during trial. The Virginia code provides that any party in any civil action may inform the jury of the amount of damages sought by the plaintiff in the opening statement or closing argument, or both. The plaintiff may request an amount which is less than the ad damnum in the motion for judgment.

The law does not allow repeated discussion of the amount that was sued for, but it does allow the jury to know how much is being sought. Repeatedly in jury exit interviews, jury consultants advise that jurors want to know the amount the lawyer is asking for, and even become a bit irritated if the lawyer does not tell them. In some states, lawyers are not allowed to discuss an amount. Those court rules or laws are usually based in the premise that jurors should not be impacted by the psychology of framing.

Some think that a high amount causes jurors to cut it in half anyway. For instance, a juror may hear an amount of 1 million dollars and decide that they will only come back with 500k as their verdict. The greater dollar amount has framed them to a potential higher amount than they might have returned. Consequently, a lawyer who sues and asks for too much, may seem greedy and cause the jury not to take that lawyer seriously or as the one telling the truth.

DID YOU KNOW that according to scientists, kissing for one minute burns 26 calories?

And for pic o’ day, this TV  program sure is getting some attention:


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