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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How does framing influence preference for multiple solutions to societal problems? Wu, James Shyan-Tau


Solutions to environmental and social problems are often framed in dichotomous ways, which can be counterproductive. Instead, multiple solutions are often needed to fully address these problems. Here we examine how framing influences people’s preference for multiple solutions. In a pre-registered experiment, participants (N=1,432) were randomly assigned to one of four framing conditions. In the first three conditions, participants were presented with eight problems, each framed with multiple causes, multiple impacts, or multiple solutions to the problem. The control condition did not present any framing information. Participants indicated their preferred solution, perceived severity and urgency of the problem, and their dichotomous thinking tendency. Pre-registered analyses showed that none of the three frames had a significant impact on preference for multiple solutions, perceived severity, perceived urgency, or dichotomous thinking. However, exploratory analyses showed that perceived severity and urgency of the problem were positively correlated with people’s preference for multiple solutions, while dichotomous thinking was negatively correlated. These findings show a limited impact of framing on multi-solution preference. Future interventions should focus on addressing perceived severity and urgency, or decreasing dichotomous thinking to encourage people to adopt multiple solutions to address complex environmental and social problems.

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