Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Philosophy and Humanities

Committee Chair

JoNell Strough


The effect of frame, or the way in which options are worded, has been shown to influence decisions in many domains; however, the literature lacks studies that examine the effect of age and other individual characteristics on susceptibility to the framing effect. Sixty-eight college-aged women ( M age = 19.10 years, SD = 1.54) and sixty-six women over the age of 60 years (M age = 70.76 years, SD = 7.10) were presented with breast cancer vignettes that varied by frame (i.e., gains option worded in terms of number of women who would be cured and loss option worded in terms of number of women who would die) and degree of risk involved (i.e., risk averse versus risk seeking). Tversky and Kaheman's classic Asian disease design was adapted to create the breast cancer vignette. Participants rated the likelihood of choosing the risk-averse or the risk-seeking treatments. The influence of individual characteristics (age, experience with breast cancer, cognitive ability, cognitive processing, sensation seeking, and need for cognition) on treatment decisions was examined. When presented with the negative frame, older women made riskier decisions than did women presented with the positive frame. Frame, however, did not influence younger women's decisions. Experience with breast cancer (personal and vicarious), crystallized and fluid intelligence (as assessed by the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test), analytical versus heuristic cognitive processing (as assessed by the Rational Experiential Inventory), and sensation seeking (as assessed by the Impulsive Sensation Seeking Scale) were not associated with treatment decisions. Women lower in need for cognition made riskier decisions than did women higher in need for cognition, but that did not vary by frame. The age x frame interaction found using with the breast cancer vignette was also shown using general cancer and non-cancer vignettes. This indicates the interaction of age and frame is generalizable to domains other than breast cancer. Thus, the way in which options are worded influences older women's decisions, which may influence outcomes, particularly in the domain of health. Results can be used to inform health professionals on the best way to present treatment information to patients.