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The Euphoria of Numbers

In the five research studies, people were asked to choose between two options of products--digital cameras, towels, cooking oil, cell phones, and potato chips. In each of the studies, the participants tended to pick the products labeled with the most numerical specifications...even if the latter were meaningless.

In the Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago researcher Christopher Hsee (University of Chicago) and three colleagues from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China) wrote: "We find that even when buyers can directly experience the underlying attributes and the specifications carry little or no additional information, they are still heavily influenced by the specifications."

Adding an additional twist, the choice of a product with more numerical specifications does not imply the person will like the products more after their choice. Rather, the choice reflects little more than the heavy influence of the attached numbers.

Consumer education must begin in the math classroom, where students should learn that the presence or over-abundance of numbers has no meaning in itself. Facing a choice of a camera (M megapixels), stereo (W watts), toilet paper (S sheets), or a sub sandwich (C calories), consumers must first educate themselves on the meaning of the attribute measured by the numbers. But, that is an endless battle!

Source: ScienceDaily, December 17, 2008