Die-by Framing both Lengthens and Shortens Life: Further Evidence on Constructed Beliefs in Life Expectancy



Comerford DA & Robinson J (2017) Die-by Framing both Lengthens and Shortens Life: Further Evidence on Constructed Beliefs in Life Expectancy. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 30 (5), pp. 1104-1112.

Decisions regarding consumption over the lifespan require some estimate of how long that lifespan is likely to be. Payne et al. (2013) found that respondents' estimates of their own life expectancy are on average 8.6 years shorter when elicited using a die-by frame than when elicited by a live-to frame. If decision makers act on these life expectancies, then an arbitrary detail of framing will lead to drastically different choices. We propose that the framing effect is sensitive to the iterative probabilistic elicitation procedure employed by the previous literature. Study 1 compares the framing effect across the iterative probabilistic procedure and a point estimate procedure that simply asks respondents the age they will live to/die by. The iterative probabilistic procedure implies a life expectancy six years shorter in the die-by frame than in the live-to frame, replicating the results of Payne et al. (2013). With the point estimate procedure, however, the framing effect reverses: the die-by frame increases life expectancy by three years. In Study 2, we test for the framing effect using a point estimate procedure on a representative sample of 2000 Britons. Again, and in contrast with the previous literature, we find that the die-by frame implies longer life. Our results reinforce the previous literature that beliefs around life expectancy are constructed. We recommend caution when attempting to debias life expectancy estimates or using life expectancies in choice architecture.

life expectancy; framing effects; probabilistic reasoning; annuities

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making: Volume 30, Issue 5

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online28/07/2017
Date accepted by journal08/06/2017

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Professor David Comerford

Professor David Comerford

Professor, Economics