Decisional Strategy Determines Whether Frame Influences Treatment Preferences for Medical Decisions
AbstractDecision makers are influenced by the frame of information such that preferences vary depending on whether survival or mortality data are presented. Research is inconsistent as to whether and how age impacts framing effects. This paper presents two studies that used qualitative analyses of think-aloud protocols to understand how the type of information used in the decision making process varies by frame and age. In Study 1, 40 older adults, age 65 to 89, and 40 younger adults, age 18 to 24, responded to a hypothetical lung cancer scenario in a within-subject design. Participants received both a survival and mortality frame. Qualitative analyses revealed that two main decisional strategies were used by all participants: one strategy reflected a data-driven decisional process, whereas the other reflected an experience-driven process. Age predicted decisional strategy, with older adults less likely to use a data-driven strategy. Frame interacted with strategy to predict treatment choice; only those using a data-driven strategy demonstrated framing effects. In Study 2, 61 older adults, age 65 to 98, and 63 younger adults, age 18 to 30, responded to the same scenarios as in Study 1 in a between-subject design. The results of Study 1 were replicated, with age significantly predicting decisional strategy and frame interacting with strategy to predict treatment choice. Findings suggest that framing effects may be more related to decisional strategy than to age.