Anxiety and the Framing Effect: Intolerance of Uncertainty Predicts Frame-Consistent Choice Patterns

Mark Himmelstein, Fordham University


The framing effect is a well-known decision bias in which people tend to express risk-averse preferences when problems are framed in terms of gains, but risk-seeking preferences when problems are framed as losses. Drawing inspiration from observations that the neurocircuitry active during frame-consistent decision making is similar to a network that plays a strong role in the development and maintenance of anxiety, the primary focus of this study was to examine whether different measures related to anxiety predicted more robust frame-consistent choice patterns. The results confirmed that intolerance of uncertainty (IUS) predicted greater risk-aversion for gains and risk-seeking for losses. Results suggested that higher IUS scores predicted a more reflexive decision-style in the gain frame; but that in the loss frame, this reflexive decision style was more prominent across all levels of IUS. Results also showed significant moderating effects of the drive and fun seeking subscales of behavioral activation (BAS-D and BAS-F, respectively) on the relationship between behavioral inhibition (BIS) and the framing effect, but there was no direct relationship between BIS and the framing effect. The reward responsiveness subscale of behavioral activation (BAS-R) predicted greater risk-seeking for losses but showed a smaller effect on risk-aversion for gains and no interaction effect with BIS. Finally, small but statistically significant effects were identified for the respective differences between certainty and probability elicitation tasks, and between framing and reflection tasks.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Himmelstein, Mark, "Anxiety and the Framing Effect: Intolerance of Uncertainty Predicts Frame-Consistent Choice Patterns" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10813362.