Changing frames to enhance the accessibility of critical information reduces costs and improves intellectual efficiency. We should consider investing in alternative means of framing communication and thought processes.
Accessibility is defined as the ease with which we can interpret certain information about things we perceive.
Consider three different representations of the same number: its canonical form 21233171, its decimal form 1880064, and its hexadecimal form 1cb000. All three forms represent the same number, and contain the exact same information. However, some pieces of information are more accessible than others. The magnitude of the number is easily accessible from its decimal form, but not so accessible from its canonical form. It is much easier to determine the greater of 1880064 and 4826809 than it is to determine the greater of 21233171 and 136. On the other hand, the prime factorization of the number is immediately accessible from its canonical form, but not from its decimal or hexadecimal forms. Determining that 212 is a factor of 1880064 requires some calculation, but is a trivial task given the canonical representation. To one familiar with hexadecimal notation, it is trivial that 212 (or 163) divides 1cb000. This last point demonstrates that sufficient training or familiarity with specific types of representations might make certain information more accessible, and therefore help in making intuitive judgments.
In a similar fashion, the method in which a choice problem is represented or framed alters the accessibility of its various attributes. Because our intuitive judgment passively accepts the information given and is not concerned with reframing problems, we are left only with the narrow frame provided and have only the information that was readily accessible.
Reframing is expensive. Transaction costs vary based on the choice of frames and the information. Consider that changing a number from canonical form to decimal form is easier than changing a number from decimal form to canonical form. Consider also that changing the decimal number 1024 to canonical form is much easier than changing the number 1027 to canonical form (oddly, this conversion is made easier by the fact that 1027 is not already in its canonical form).
Because of processing improvements due to familiarity, cognitive biases, and the cost of reframing, the initial framing choice is important. How much we should invest in choosing the best frame is a math problem, but it’s a problem worth considering.