Wandering through some not very modern but exceptionally clear and thought-provoking thinking from Steve De Shazzer in his book “Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy” I stumbled across what I think may be the origin of the idea of reframing or, if not, then a fascinating experiment on how it works.

This experiment was performed by Duncker in 1945 and it seems to me that a great deal can be learned not only from the results of the experiment itself, but from its simplicity and most of all the imagination involved in developing a hypothesis that would suggest it.

I’m just going to quote from the book and let it speak for itself:

An Experimental Approach to the Construction of Frames

Duncker (1945) designed the following experiment which

Illustrates how frames (definitions and meanings) influence

what happens. Group One was given three boxes, one with

matches, one with candles, and one with tacks. Group Two

received the same materials, but the matches, candles and

tacks were not in the boxes. The object was to mount the candle
vertically on a screen to serve as a lamp. Group Two found

the problem much easier to solve. In a replication, Adamson

(1952) found that only 41% of Group One solved this problem

within 20 minutes, while 86% of Group Two were successful

within the time limit. It seems that, for Group One, the boxes

were framed (or defined) as “containers,” while for Group Two

the boxes, since they did not contain anything, could more

easily be seen as potential platforms (a reframing for empty

boxes) upon which to stick the candle. That is, some frames

(i.e., container) are less useful in solving this platform prob-

lem than other frames (i.e., empty boxes)…

…As suggested by Duncker’s experiment, frames (ways of

seeing or defining situations) and the labels attached to them

dictate (to a greater or lesser extent) what we can see and do:

Our point of view determines what happens next. This seems

clear not only in art and science but also in everyday life:

Frames and their labels affect paradigm- or frame-induced

expectations and enable us to articulate and measure the

world. Any concrete “fact” can have several different labels

implying different frames (Watzlawick et al., 1974).”

(My emphases)

pages 39–40 “Keys to Solutions in Brief Therapy” 1985 Steve De Shazzer. Published by WW Norton

This not only stands by itself as providing a key insight into how we can change things for ourselves and others but also links directly into the Liminal Coaching principle that frameworks of belief are performative. That is they construct realities.

Originally posted on Medium.com

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