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The Value of Perception on Decision Making

Do you prefer candy with 1% sugar or 99% sugar free? Should the label of hand sanitizer you use state that it destroys 99.9% of germs, or that it spares 0.1% of them? Are you more likely to buy from a warm and friendly salesman compared to one that seems cold and disinterested? It seems common sense would give you the answer, but it’s a useful exercise to see how often life is presented to us in a certain way to manipulate our decision making. The glass can be half full or half empty, it really depends on what the goals are of the person or corporation that wants to influence you. Two politicians can have wildly differing interpretations of the same piece of data, depending on the audience they want to preach to.

Consumers make purchasing decisions based on how things are presented to themselves in terms of their context and delivery. This so-called framing effect is present in all areas of decision making, from health care, food to financial decisions. In fact, it’s considered one of the most influential factors, as it’s especially difficult to detect without you being made aware of your susceptibility.

Our minds perceive everything we view, hear and put our attention to, and it is what shapes our understanding of the world around us. Everything in existence is subjected to how our minds perceive reality. The framing effect can be attributed to many types of cues, and not limited to just auditory, value, or visual characteristics.

Jordan Belfort, the real-life character that the Wolf of Wall Street is based upon, knew the value of framing from the beginning. He used it to determine the effectiveness of his salespeople. By asking them to sell him a pen, he determined their ability to convince a prospective customer that an otherwise standard pen appears to be incredibly desirable. This doesn’t mean that you should now go out and start selling penny stocks to frame them as worth millions of dollars (which is fraud, and Belfort can testify to learning from such unethical mistakes the hard way), but it’s a worthy lesson for us all about the importance of context and delivery.

It may be argued that these frames are not solely responsible for our decisions, but they do have a major influence on perception. This creates the reasoning and logic in our minds that develops into executing thoughts and actions. Ultimately, we all frame our lives in different ways, from the clothes we wear, to speaking, to our professional life. Given that you have certain desires, the question is, how will you frame yourself to other people to achieve those desires?

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