Research Highlights - July 2020

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How can you use the findings from the latest research studies to improve your performance and the performance of your organization?  We’ll provide the highlights and key ideas you won’t get anywhere else.

New research at Rensselaer Polytechnic

Institute published in the Journal

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process finds that consumers prefer round numbers even when specifics numbers represent better news. This research, which explores how people make decisions based on the manner in which information is presented, has obviously useful implications for marketers and policy-makers.

Consider a scenario: “A vaccine for the novel coronavirus has been developed that is 91.27 percent effective. If public health officials present this information using the specific number, people are likely to think the vaccine is actually less effective than if it is presented as being 90 percent effective.”

For decades, researchers in this field have been focused on the attributes, the adjectives, and other words that describe what is being measured. On the other hand, this research looked at the numbers that are used in the so-called “attribute frames” themselves.

Using six sets of data with more than 1,500 participants, the researchers considered what would happen to peoples’ perception of information when specific, or non-round, numbers were used instead of round numbers.

The research showed that people find non-round numbers unique and jarring. The research team determined that people pause to think about the specific number due to its uniqueness. Because it isn’t easy to comprehend, people tend to compare the non-round number to an easily understood ideal standard — like 100 percent. Then, because the specific number doesn’t live up to the ideal, people perceive it negatively.

Numbers have a language and give non-numerical perceptions. When we use specific numbers, the evaluations decrease.

Therefore, marketers and public health officials should be careful when using non-round numbers, because the use of this approach in communication messages may undermine subjective evaluations of the target based on the associated attributes.

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