Leadership and Framing Effects: Individual Differences in Risk Perception for Leaders Academic Article uri icon


  • Studies of framing effects have found that individuals are more likely to be risk-averse when scenarios are presented as gain-frames but are more likely to be risk-seeking when mathematically equivalent scenarios are presented as loss-frames (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981). Fuzzy-Trace Theory (FTT) suggests that decisions are made through a verbatim-based process that works to maximize rewards and minimize risk through a cost/benefit analysis of the elements of the scenario (Reyna & Farley, 2006). FTT further proposes a second decision-making process, gistbased processing, which relies on intuition as opposed to analysis of elements of the scenario. One application of this approach is to examine how risk perception may differ for people who obtain leadership positions. FTT posits that gist-based processing is an advanced way of processing risk, and therefore is favored more often by expert decision makers (see Corbin et al., 2015 for a detailed description). In this study, student leaders of on-campus organizations completed a framing task that was designed as a spinner game and a DOSPERT scale to measure perception and likeliness of risk. Leaders, compared to non-leaders, were found to be more susceptible to standard framing effects and a stronger relationship between perception of risk and likeliness of risk was found, suggesting that leaders were more likely to respond to risk when risk is perceived. Overall, our results support the idea that gist-based decision making is a higher-level process of thinking that is used by mature decision makers such as leaders.

published proceedings

  • North American Journal of Psychology

author list (cited authors)

  • Shahabuddin, S., Estrada, S., & Elbert, C.

complete list of authors

  • Shahabuddin, Shaan||Estrada, Steven||Elbert, Chanda

publication date

  • June 2020