i-frame versus s-frame


From the long version of the abstract:

“An influential line of thinking in behavioral science, to which the two authors have long subscribed, is that many of society’s most pressing problems can be addressed cheaply and effectively at the level of the individual, without modifying the system in which individuals operate. Along with, we suspect, many colleagues in both academic and policy communities, we now believe this was a mistake. Results from such interventions have been disappointingly modest. But more importantly, they have guided many (though by no means all) behavioral scientists to frame policy problems in individual, not systemic, terms: to adopt what we call the β€œi-frame,” rather than the β€œs-frame.” The difference may be more consequential than those who have operated within the i-frame have understood, in deflecting attention and support away from s-frame policies. Indeed, highlighting the i-frame is a long-established objective of corporate opponents of concerted systemic action such as regulation and taxation.”

And the confessional conclusion:

“… if the right s-frame solutions were available but not implemented all along, it is likely that behavioral scientists’ enthusiasm for the i-frame has actively reduced attention to, and support for, systemic reform, as corporations interested in blocking change intend. We have been unwitting accomplices to forces opposed to helping create a better society.”


Chater, Nick and Loewenstein, George F., The i-Frame and the s-Frame: How Focusing on Individual-Level Solutions Has Led Behavioral Public Policy Astray (March 1, 2022). Available at SSRN.