Differences in framing lead to differences in performance

Fraction of games won versus difference in score at half-time.
"[N.C.A.A. basketball] teams that are behind by one point at halftime are actually more likely to win than teams that are one point ahead," writes Justin Wolfers on the Freakonomics blog. He continues, "Notice what happens when we contrast teams that are one point behind at halftime with teams that are one point ahead: the chances of winning suddenly fall by 2.4 percentage points, instead of rising by 8 percentage points: Losing can lead to winning because of the strong motivating effects of being close to your goal."

This case of the basketball teams, which we covered in our MORS430 class, is just one illustration of framing and the dramatic differences a frame can have on human performance. Being tangibly close to achieving a goal drives greater performance than being ahead or significantly behind.

The greater insight is that to really win, you have to get ahead. Once you are ahead, you need to maintain as much motivation and performance as when you are slightly behind, though the urge might be to relax a little. In this respect, rather than comparing your performance to others -- to who you are a few points ahead of or behind -- it is perhaps better to set your own standard and compare your performance to that.