When Bigger is Better (And When It is Not): Implicit Bias in Numeric Judgments

78 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016

See all articles by Ellie Kyung

Ellie Kyung

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Manoj Thomas

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Aradhna Krishna

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: December 6, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Kyung, Ellie and Thomas, Manoj and Krishna, Aradhna, When Bigger is Better (And When It is Not): Implicit Bias in Numeric Judgments (December 6, 2016). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming; Tuck School of Business Working Paper No. 2881320. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881320

Ellie Kyung (Contact Author)

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Manoj Thomas

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

353 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-7207 (Phone)
607-254-4590 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://forum.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/mthomas/

Aradhna Krishna

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

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