Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 27–50 | Cite as

Life expectancy as a constructed belief: Evidence of a live-to or die-by framing effect

  • John W. Payne
  • Namika Sagara
  • Suzanne B. Shu
  • Kirstin C. Appelt
  • Eric J. Johnson


Life expectations are essential inputs for many important personal decisions. We propose that longevity beliefs are responses constructed at the time of judgment, subject to irrelevant task and context factors, and leading to predictable biases. Specifically, we examine whether life expectancy is affected by the framing of expectations questions as either live-to or die-by, as well as by factors that actually affect longevity such as age, gender, and self-reported health. We find that individuals in a live-to frame report significantly higher chances of being alive at ages 55 through 95 than people in a corresponding die-by frame. Estimated mean life expectancies across three studies and 2300 respondents were 7.38 to 9.17 years longer when solicited in a live-to frame. We are additionally able to show how this framing works on a process level and how it affects preference for life annuities. Implications for models of financial decision making are discussed.


Life Expectancy Framing Effects Judgment Annuities 

JEL Classification

D03 – Behavioral Economics D84 – Expectations 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Payne
    • 1
  • Namika Sagara
    • 1
  • Suzanne B. Shu
    • 2
  • Kirstin C. Appelt
    • 3
  • Eric J. Johnson
    • 3
  1. 1.Fuqua School of BusinessDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Anderson School of BusinessUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.School of BusinessColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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