Speakers' choice of frame based on reference point: With explicit reason or affected by irrelevant prime?

AbstractPrevious studies have shown that when choosing one of the logically equivalent frames (e.g., "half full" or "half empty"), speakers tend to choose one based on a reference point. For example, when the amount of water in a glass with 500ml capacity was originally 0ml (or 500ml) and then increased (or decreased) to 250ml, speakers tended to express the content of water in the glass as "half full" (or "half empty"). We examined why speakers chose one of the logically equivalent frames. In addition, we examined whether an irrelevant reference point affected speakers' choice of frame. In order to examine these two issues, we conducted three behavioral experiments using a frame choice task. Specifically, participants were presented with a task-relevant (story-based) or task-irrelevant (prime-based) reference point and then asked to choose a frame. Following this, they were asked to reveal the reason for the frame choice. Our findings were summarized with the following two points. First, when reference points were task-relevant, many participants chose a frame based on the reference point with explicit reason. Second, even when reference points were task-irrelevant, they affected frame choices and almost all of our participants did not report the effect of the irrelevant reference point. These results indicate that the effect of reference points on frame choices is robust and that people do not always notice the effect.

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