Political Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 297–321 | Cite as

Emotion and the Framing of Risky Choice

  • James N. Druckman
  • Rose McDermott
Original Paper


One of the most noted phenomena in social and political decision-making is the occurrence of a framing effect. For example, on problems involving risky choices, individuals tend to act risk-averse when the problem is framed in terms of gains (e.g., saving lives, making money) and risk-seeking when the same problem is instead framed in terms of losses (e.g., deaths, losing money). Scholars have begun to identify the processes underlying framing effects as well as the conditions under which framing effects occur. Yet, extant work focuses nearly exclusively on cognitive processes, despite growing recognition of the importance of emotion in general decision-making tasks. In this paper, we explore the impact of emotional states on risk attitudes and framing. We find that emotions significantly influence both individuals’ tendencies to take risks and the impact of a frame on risky choices (e.g., emotions amplify or depress a frame’s impact). The precise role of emotions depends on the problem domain (e.g., a life-death or a financial decision), and the specific type of emotion under study. Moreover, in contrast to much work in political science, we show that emotions need to be distinguished beyond their positive or negative valence, as different negative emotions exert opposite effects. Our results accentuate the importance of integrating emotions into research areas traditionally dominated by more cognitive perspectives.


Framing Emotion Decision-making Risk Experiment Public opinion 



We acknowledge support from the Russell Sage Foundation’s Small Grants Program in Behavioral Economics, the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, and Northwestern University’s AT&T Research Scholar Fund. We also thank the participants at the 2005 “Workshop on new Methods for Studying Social Behavior in Political Science” at Rice University for stimulating conversations.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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