Essays on Consumers and Numbers Defended on Thursday, 15 December 2022

This dissertation focuses on the relationship that consumers have with different forms of numerical information. Numbers can be considered as a universal language. They are used to quantify a host of attributes within the consumer environment, and they often serve as important cues for decisions that consumers make across different facets of their lives. This dissertation aims to show that the consumers’ relationship with numbers is in fact complex and nuanced—it cannot solely be viewed from a normative, mathematical perspective. That is, while numbers inherently hold objective value and meaning, admittedly subjective perceptions may frequently prevail. Relatedly, interpretation of numerical information is also largely malleable, in that a variety of different factors may distort how numerical figures may be perceived.


The first chapter focuses on numerical information in the form of historical prices. Upon observing historic price information, while controlling for absolute magnitude of changes, consumers’ decision to make or defer purchase crucially depends on the interaction between the frequency and direction of observed changes. The second chapter focuses on numerical information that is dynamic in nature. It is found that consumers tend to perceive an identical numerical value as larger when it stems from a more frequently updated source, versus less frequent. The third chapter focuses on numerical information that is embedded within task instructions, specifically whether they are framed as expected output versus input. Constructing task instructions in terms of expected output leads to greater motivation during a task, compared to using input-based framing.


Numerical information, numerical cognition, pricing, frequency of changes, goals and motivation, judgment and decision making, consumer behavior

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