FRAMING AND REFRAMING

As a religion, Jainism is older than Christianity.

But, in my opinion, it’s considerably more enlightened.

One of the main teachings of Jainism is that all truth is relative.

The limitations of human beings means that no one can ever know the whole truth about anything.

Just the truth from their perspective.

This is illustrated by the parable of five blind men walking into an elephant.

They try to describe what they’ve bumped into.

One blind man feels the side of the elephant.

He says “An elephant is like a wall.”

Another blind man feels the elephant’s trunk.

He says “No, an elephant is like a snake.”

The third blind man feels the leg.

He says “You’re both wrong, an elephant is like a tree.”

The fourth blind man feels the tusk.

He says “Sorry, but an elephant is like a spear.”

The fifth blind man feels the tail.

He says “You’re all wrong, an elephant is like a piece of rope.”

All the blind men mistake their little bit of truth for the whole truth.

This is what we all do, we can’t help it.

Daniel Kahneman called this ‘framing’.

He demonstrated that we can reverse someone’s preference by presenting the same facts in different ways.

In an experiment he asked participants to imagine an outbreak of disease that was expected to kill 600 people.

He gave them a choice:

Option A – 200 people will definitely be saved.

Option B – 1/3 probability all will be saved, 2/3 probability no one will be saved.

When asked, 75% of people chose option A.

The second group had the same choice presented differently.

Option C – 400 people will definitely die.

Option D – 1/3 probability no one will die, 2/3 probability everyone will die.

This time the preference was reversed, 75% of people chose option D.

Even though options A & C are the same, and options B & D are the same.

By ‘reframing’ the identical facts he made the choice appear totally different.

Seth Godin calls this the “compared to what?” syndrome.

Humans don’t think in limbo.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

The answer is always “compared to what?”

The glass is half empty if the person next to us has a full glass.

The glass is half full if the person next to us has an empty glass.

We live our lives in a constant state of comparison.

So constant that we don’t even notice it.

And yet that should be the main purpose of planning and research.

Context.

What is the context we are speaking into?

What is the context we want to create?

As Kahneman demonstrated, if we control the context we control the choice.

Surely that’s our job.

To understand what creates opinion, in order to control opinion.

As Democritus said over 2,000 years ago “All there is in the universe is atoms and void. Everything else is mere opinion.”

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