The Role of Subjective Ease in Price Comparisons

Manoj Thomas, New York University, USA
Some mental computations are easier (e.g., 5.00 – 4.00) than others (e.g., 4.99 – 3.98). Does such processing fluency induced by computational complexity in anyway affect our numerical judgments? On the basis of recent insights into the effects of processing fluency, we tested the hypothesis that people will misattribute their subjective experience induced by computational complexity to the analog distance between the numbers. Consistent with our hypothesis, participants in our experiments perceived the numerical difference to be larger when the difference was easier to compute than when it was difficult to compute, even when the arithmetic difference was not larger. We show that the ease of computation effect manifests in judgments of discount magnitude, price difference as well as weight difference (Experiments 1 and 2). However, this effect manifests only when the judgment requires mental computations. When the participants did not have to do the mental computations to make the judgment, processing fluency had no effect on judgments (Experiment 3). Finally, when the participants were explicitly warned that the computation is either easy or difficult, processing fluency had no effect on judgments (Experiment 4).
[ to cite ]:
Manoj Thomas (2007) ,"The Role of Subjective Ease in Price Comparisons", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34, eds. Gavan Fitzsimons and Vicki Morwitz, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 28-30.