Emotion and the framing of risky choice

James N. Druckman, Rose McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-321
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Decision-making
  • Emotion
  • Experiment
  • Framing
  • Public opinion
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotion and the framing of risky choice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this