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F is for Framing

A  picture looks different and brings out different emotions when framed in a particular way. A child’s picture framed with marker-colored Popsicle sticks brings a nostalgic smile of childhood crafts. The same picture in an obituary brings sadness and hostility the child was killed in a drive-by shooting. Move the picture beside a headline screaming Child Kills 3 Classmates, and anger surfaces. Frames are important to how we judge what we see and hear.

Frames are the stereotypical lenses we use to view our world in terms we understand. Let’s explore another example.

We know body language means something in one context and something different in another. A wink from a friend is conspiratorial. A wink from a perfect stranger is flirting. The same one-eyed blink from someone looking the other way could very well be dust from the construction site across the street.

The Big Picture

Framing helps us break the big picture into smaller vignettes. In the smaller pictures we can see greater detail because we are not distracted by outer portions. Just as reading smaller print requires different focus, our frames zero in on each event based on what we know, believe and need to draw from it.

The rest of the picture is still in tact. Some of the portions we cannot see inside our frame influence what we do see. We can recognize the effect the big picture has on our smaller picture, but our frame supports what we see in the details.

Being Framed

We are viewed through frames. Quaint frames us in terms of the responses we are likely to give and the reactions we will have to certain events. Mate’s frame has more detail in some areas than Quaint’s does, even though they are viewing the same picture. Sometimes, we become what they see in the smaller picture to ease our relationships with them.

Social Framing

Society frames us in a different way. Whether the frame is our religion, politics, job, sexuality, race, ability or gender, society views us as a member of a group and expects our behavior to align with our associates’. These frames help others identify and identify with us. Although it is stereotyping, it does help others understand our behavior by viewing it in context with what they believe to be true of our associations.

Framing Facts

You have heard the adage:

Three sides to every story

Each person frames their facts to maximize their role as (victim, victor, important) while downplaying any portion of the story which detracts from their version. Here the frame supports their story. They present it to you in such a way you will find it plausible and issue (sympathy, charity, endorsement). Their depiction shows you enough of the frame for you to adopt it.

Another player in the same scene will discuss the matter with what may appear to be completely opposite facts. This auditory illusion is based on two factors: perspective and framing. Each person sees themselves as the star of the story. They frame the scenario to support their role and create an emotional response from you.

The member of the audience who tells you the same story later will likely give you the truest frame. This person has no stake in the matter and likely produces the least biased version, which nears, if not nails, the truth.

Framing Questions

When we seek answers to questions we are on a quest (hence question) for facts or opinion. Factual questions are pretty straight forward:

  • Is it raining?
  • What time is the meeting?
  • Will this hurt?

Opinion questions require judgment of the person answering. Framing the question produces different answers:

  • Is it raining hard?
  • Is the meeting too early?
  • How much will it hurt?

The questions themselves demonstrate your opinion and lead the answer provider to frame an answer reflective of personal experience. While the answer will be true from the perspective of that frame, it may not be the same as the answer you would provide for the question through your own frame.

Broken Frames

We normally do not notice our frames until they become cracked. The picture inside is distorted and does not fit with what we know the big picture to be. When the details inside are not supported by the frame, we change it.

Choosing Frames

People with superior complex problem-solving abilities view the world through more than one frame before making a decision. Sometimes, they will remove the frame and look at the big picture. Before they decide, they explore which frame makes the choices clearer in terms of risk and benefit.

They will also pose (frame) questions to convince others to see things through their frames. Need an example?¹ Choose one solution.

We are expecting an epidemic which will kill 600 people. We have three plans.

  • Plan A: 200 people will be saved
  • Plan B: 1/3 probability 600 people will be saved and a 2/3 probability no people will be saved
  • Plan C: 400 people will die

Please comment with your plan choice. Can you name a dominant use of framing in our society? Do you or someone close to you look through different frames before you make decisions? Have you ever changed a frame?

If you tweet or +1 this post, please use the hashtag #AtoZChallenge!

© Red Dwyer 2012
Reblogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog is expressly forbidden.
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¹Example comes from the Prospect Theory research of Kahnemann and Tversky, Nobel Prize 2002.

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  1. This is a very interesting subject. Framing affects the potential instantaneous look at the big picture; once the frame is ‘installed’ in the mind, it is difficult to go beyond, the mind balks at previous limits established. We all frame subconsciously but perhaps it is unwise to do so unless necessary. “:)
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Political Sanctions: Punishment for Voting DemocraticallyMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 6, 2012

      What I find interesting is we know the big picture distorts the contents of the frame…and vice versa. I like the fewest frames possible, or the largest selection. Really, a toss up.

      • There is one time I think framing is appropriate, and that is when we wish to focus on specific detail in the big picture. Actually the imposition of a frame isolating a segment distorts the big picture, but limits the small picture. I’m not sure that the contents of the small frame, once the frame is installed and SET in stone -affect the content of the big picture at all. Interesting idea. “:)
        Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Political Sanctions: Punishment for Voting DemocraticallyMy Profile

        • Red

           /  April 6, 2012

          Sure they do, Ray. Think of it like quilting. You put a frame around the area you are going to stitch. As you do, the tautness of the blanket shifts, even if just slightly, to make the puckers and fluffs which makes it warm and fluffy. Even if you think of it as pinching the knee of your pants, the effect is the same. You cannot manipulate one spot in isolation. If we could, there would be no consequences to our actions…

  2. This reminds me of the pictures I took last summer outside my hotel. It’s a suburban concrete jungle with this small, dirty run off where ducks live. Properly cropped, you’d never know the picture was taken in the ghetto (it’s what I call all of this city because of its mentality).

    Perhaps not what you were looking for, but I see it as the same concept.
    Alexandra Heep recently posted..F is for Fair WarningMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 6, 2012

      It is precisely the same concept. The contexts we use to identify our surroundings and our interactions with them. I love the idea of ducks making a home in the midst of the city. Thank you for stopping by today, Alex.

  3. Excellent post on how humans deal with humans. Very thought provoking to be sure.

    Tim Keen recently posted..Gangillo Part VMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 6, 2012

      Did not mean for you to get caught in the spam filter. Glad this one gave you a think, and good to see you this evening.

  4. You are correct. There is a need for people to place meaning on everything. Framing allows us to take any situation and wrap boundaries around it. Anyone can make the following statement “There are only two kinds of people. Those who do “A” or those who do “B”.” Completely not true, of course, but totally how people rationalize people.

    Loved your post.

    Tim Keen recently posted..Gangillo Part VMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 6, 2012

      No, it is never true. We are far too individual for it to be true.

  5. I think we need some better plans! I suppose Plan C sounds a lot worse than plan A even though they’re the same.
    Binky recently posted..More VegetablesMy Profile

  6. Since A and C are exactly the same (glass half full vs. glass half empty) I choose B. Mostly because there is a chance of saving everyone, even though it’s not good. Framing is something all people should be aware of when they make decisions (and a lot of other things). I have definately reframed some things in my life and am much happier for having done it. 🙂
    Angela recently posted..Confessions of an Enabler by Angela Masters YoungMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 7, 2012

      How we frame choices is always important. Your logic for picking B is interesting.

  7. So framing the face with a hair style came to mind. Don’t ask me why; I’m simply thinking outside of the box a bit here.

    When we go to the hair stylist, we have a choice to either tell him/her how to style our hair, or to let their expertise lead the way and give them simple guidelines. We want a trim, several inches taken off, lots of poof, easy to care for…you get the idea.

    We frame our hair style based on how we feel about ourselves and how we want to present ourselves to the world. I suppose it would be wise to consider the perceptions others already have of us, before deciding on a new do.

    I guess what I’m really getting at is that we frame the perceptions people have of us, and then we let our super ego or lack of self esteem determine how to respond to how the world treats us. It’s a dangerous proposition at best, especially when we fail to get in touch with our inner selves and dig deep enough to be secure in who we are, despite how we do our hair in the first place.
    M. J. Joachim recently posted..Flower in Hexagon MotifMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 7, 2012

      The idea of super-ego is very correct. In our frame, we assume the reactions of others to validate or denigrate our decisions.

  8. Love the wordplay!

    I’m stopping in as an A to Z blogger. I invite you to visit my blogs, leaving a link to your own post, so my readers can find you too!

    All on Blogspot.com and all in the A to Z Challenge:

    Heart of a Ready Writer – Bible &Devotional
    Meme Express – Daily Blog Prompts (A to Z)
    Nickers and Ink – featuring favorite classic poems from A to Z
    Practically at Home – Wait till you see what fellow writers are cited – with article links! Maybe you!
    Simply Snickers – Not posting daily in the A to Z Challenge, but inviting you to leave comments with you A to Z/NaPoWriMo poetry links!
    The Mane Point – profiling special horses from A to Z (just a few letter spots left!) –
    Working in Words – Writing How-to’s

    You can click my name/icon for links to all these blogs!
    Happy A-to-Z!
    Linda Ann – Nickers and Ink recently posted..G is for Good FridayMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 7, 2012

      I hope with your Meme Express, you voted in the poll! Right up your alley, Linda Ann.

  9. Hmmm… Given that my ‘framing’ is distorted by my illness I find myself reliant on my ethics which are not perfect, but which give me a basic set of perspectives to work from.

    As for the question: A & C are the same, just different points of view, but I’d still go for B as there is a chance of saving everyone…

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Saturday – Songs of Angels ready for editing.My Profile

    • Red

       /  April 8, 2012

      Ethics are hardly perfect. By design, they are not universal. At least you have acclimated to alternative framing. More on the choices later…{HUGZ} Red.

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