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Narrow Framing

Learn to see the forest despite the trees

“Most of us operate from a narrow frame of reference than that we are capable, failing to transcend the influence of our particular culture, our particular set of parents and our particular childhood experience upon our understanding” – M. Scott Peck ” The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth”

Narrow framing is “a tendency of people to evaluate a risky prospect in isolation rather than in context with other risks”. It is a cognitive bias based on our conditioning and past experiences. A good example of narrow framing comes from the work Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman did in 1979 with their “Prospect Theory”. In a study they showed that the perspective of a situation with the exact same outcome was significantly different depending on how the outcome was framed. In the study participants were posed with the following two statements:

  1. Out of 600 people you can save 200 people the rest will die, are you willing to take action?
  2. Out of 600 people 400 people will die the rest will be saved, are you willing to take action?

In the first framing 72% of respondents were positive to take action, but in the second only 22% were willing. We are unwilling to see the whole picture. 

In narrow framing we are only using the information in front us, we are unable to see the benefits beyond the risk. Because of this short sightedness we are unable to mitigate the future risks beyond the risks in front of us in the present. 

We are holding ourselves back because we are stuck in our head without any connection to our intuition and guidance showing us the bigger picture; the bird’s eye view. Narrow framing prevents us from stepping into our greatness because our analytical minds will always call into the attention the immediate risk without analysing the whole journey and seeing what lies beyond. In order to reset the bias we need to connect with our intuition, practice mindfulness and to observe our experiences in context and totality . We also need to accept that there are risks in progress and that the past versions of ourselves might not have a place in the future. Knowing that we are labouring under a cognitive bias is the first step in resetting it.

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