When Bigger is Better (And When It is Not): Implicit Bias in Numeric Judgments
78 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 6, 2016
Numeric ratings for products can be presented using a bigger-is-better format (1=bad, 5=good) or a smaller-is-better format with reversed rating poles (1=good, 5=bad). Seven experiments document how implicit memory for the bigger-is-better format — where larger numbers typically connote something is better — can systematically bias consumers’ judgments without their awareness. This rating polarity effect is the result of proactive interference from culturally determined numerical associations in implicit memory and results in consumer judgments that are less sensitive to differences in numeric ratings. This is an implicit bias that manifests even when people are mindful and focused on the task and across a range of judgment types (auction bids, visual perception, purchase intent, willingness-to-pay). Implicating the role of reliance on implicit memory in this interference effect, the rating polarity effect is moderated by (i) cultural norms that define the implicit numerical association, (ii) construal mindsets that encourage reliance on implicit memory, and (iii) individual propensity to rely on implicit memory. This research identifies a new form of proactive interference for numerical associations, demonstrates how reliance on implicit memory can interfere with explicit memory, and how to attenuate such interference.
Keywords: implicit memory, interference, numerical cognition, rating format, mindset, cross-cultural marketing
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