Alternatives in Framing and Decision Making


  • Many thanks for discussion and comments to Denis Hilton, David Mandel, Rick Nouwen, Christophe Schmeltzer, Shlomi Sher, and an anonymous reviewer for Mind & Language. This research was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which is gratefully acknowledged.

Address for correspondence: Department of Philosophy, University of Nijmegen, Postbox 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



There is a wealth of experimental data showing that the way a problem is framed may have an effect on people's choices and decisions. Based on a semantic analysis of evaluative expressions like ‘good’, I propose a new explanation of such framing effects. The key idea is that our choices and decisions reveal a counterfactual systematicity: they carry information about the choices and decisions we would have made if the facts had been otherwise. It is these counterfactual alternatives that may diverge between otherwise equivalent versions of the same task, and thus explain the effects of framing.