Mind the gap: How smaller numerical differences can increase product attractiveness

Meyrav Shoham, Sarit Moldovan, Yael Steinhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers often encounter product-related numerical information, such as attribute ratings and version numbers. This research demonstrates that a smaller (compared to a larger) numerical difference can increase perceived improvement and enhance product appeal. We find that when a product's version number or rating changes from a decimal number to an integer (e.g., 2.4 to 3), product appeal is enhanced compared to when the change is between two integers (e.g., 2 to 3), even though the latter difference is mathematically larger. This effect occurs when the meaning of the numerical information is unclear, leading consumers to try to infer what it represents. We suggest that a decimal number is inferred to be part of a fine-grained scale, in which decimals are the intermediate values and integers are endpoints or category boundaries. The switch from a decimal to an integer is therefore perceived as skipping over intermediate values and crossing a category boundary. This suggests that the product has made a substantive improvement, making it more appealing. A consecutive integer-to-integer change does not provide a cue to support such inferences. In five studies, we demonstrate the decimal- to-integer effect, its underlying process, and its boundary conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-774
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Categorical perception
  • Numerical information
  • Product attributes
  • Product ratings
  • Product versions


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