Loss framing increases self-serving mistakes (but does not alter attention)


In ambiguous settings, people are tempted to make self-serving mistakes. Here, we assess whether people make more self-serving mistakes to minimize losses compared with maximize gains. Results reveal that participants are twice as likely to make self-serving mistakes to reduce losses compared to increase gains. We further trace participants' eye movements to gain insight into the process underlying self-serving mistakes in losses and gains. We find that tempting, self-serving information does not capture more attention in loss, compared to gain framing. Rather, in loss framing, people are more likely to report the tempting, self-serving information they observed. The results imply that rather than diverting attention away from tempting information, reducing people’s motivation to make self-serving mistakes, and framing goals as gains rather than losses are promising ways to decrease the occurrence of self-serving mistakes. In turn, this fosters environments with more accuracy and fewer motivated mistakes.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology