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PROSPECT THEORY: LOSSES ALWAYS LOOM LARGER THAN POTENTIAL GAINS
  • The first priority is not to lose - humans are loss averse.
  • Gains are secondary to not losing.
  • Framing a decision in terms of possible loss motivates a person more strongly than framing it in terms of possible gain.

Although the two questions were identical - 200 of 600 people saved being the same as 400 of 600 lost - physicians responded very differently when confronted with a negative frame. Only 28% then voted for program C the conservative strategy and 72% for program D the risky strategy.

By changing the frame from positive to negative there was an almost perfect reversal in the choices of professional persons in their field of expertise. Changing the frame from positive to negative strongly influenced the way they perceived the problem - saving lives or not losing them.

The medical fraternity is often highly puzzled by the irresponsible way in which men over the age of 40 deal with the danger of prostrate cancer. Despite a wealth of freely available information they seemingly prefer to die rather than comply with the need for regular medical examinations. Seen from a logical perspective men should have no problem in regularly submitting to a safe procedure which could ensure their future health. Psychologically, however, this poses a risk, as the examination could reveal something men prefer not to know, cancer. By not availing themselves of regular medical examinations they ensure that nothing is found which could cause them great distress.

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October 2004