Characteristics of quantifiers moderate the framing effect

Dawn L. Holford*, Marie Juanchich, Miroslav Sirota

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
72 Downloads (Pure)


The attribute framing effect, where people judge a quantity of an item more positively with a positively described attribute (e.g., “75% lean”) than its negative, albeit normatively equivalent description (e.g., “25% fat”), is a robust phenomenon, which may be moderated under certain conditions. In this paper, we investigated the moderating effect of the characteristics of the quantifier term: its format (verbal, e.g., “high,” or numerical, e.g., “75%”) and magnitude (i.e., if it is a small or large quantity) using positive or negative synonyms of attributes (e.g., energy vs. calories). Over five pre-registered studies using a 2 (synonym, between-subjects: positive or negative) × 2 (quantifier format, between-subjects: verbal or numerical) × 2 (quantifier magnitude, within-subjects: small or large) mixed design, we manipulated quantifier format and magnitude orthogonally for synonyms with differing valence. We also tested two mechanisms for the framing effect: whether the effect was mediated by the affect associated with the frame and whether participants inferred the speaker to be positive about the target. We found a framing effect with synonyms that was reversed in direction for the small (vs. large) quantifiers, but not significantly moderated by quantifier format. Both the affect associated with the frame and the inferred level of speaker positivity partially mediated the framing effect, and the level of mediation varied with quantifier magnitude. These results suggest that the magnitude of the quantifier modifies one's evaluation of the frame, and the mechanism for people's evaluations in a framing situation may differ for small and large quantifiers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2251
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number1
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by EssexLab (seedcorn grant to D.L.H.), the Experimental Psychology Society (small grant to M.J.), and the U.K. Economics and Social Research Council (to D.L.H., grant number ES/V011901/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • affective encoding
  • attribute framing
  • framing effect
  • pragmatic inference
  • quantifiers
  • synonym frames


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