The influence of framing on clinicians' judgments of the biological basis of behaviors

Nancy S. Kim, Woo kyoung Ahn, Samuel G B Johnson, Joshua Knobe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (SciVal)


Practicing clinicians frequently think about behaviors both abstractly (i.e., in terms of symptoms, as in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed., DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and concretely (i.e., in terms of individual clients, as in DSM-5 Clinical Cases; Barnhill, 2013). Does abstract/concrete framing influence clinical judgments about behaviors? Practicing mental health clinicians (N = 74) were presented with hallmark symptoms of 6 disorders framed abstractly versus concretely, and provided ratings of their biological and psychological bases (Experiment 1) and the likely effectiveness of medication and psychotherapy in alleviating them (Experiment 2). Clinicians perceived behavioral symptoms in the abstract to be more biologically and less psychologically based than when concretely described, and medication was viewed as more effective for abstractly than concretely described symptoms. These findings suggest a possible basis for miscommunication and misalignment of views between primarily research-oriented and primarily practice-oriented clinicians; furthermore, clinicians may accept new neuroscience research more strongly in the abstract than for individual clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Clinical reasoning
  • Framing effect
  • Judgment
  • Mental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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