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EMAC 2022 Annual

Easy Calculation or Easy Result: The Paradoxical Effects of Decimal Numbers

Published: May 24, 2022


Yi Li, Macquarie University


Decimal numbers are ubiquitous in the marketplace in the form of retail prices and tips. Consumers often perform simple arithmetic calculations involving decimal numbers when calculating their spending total after adding more products or adding a tip. Existing research shows that consumers prefer round numbers, numbers with more ending zeroes and fewer decimal digits, due to its signal of completion and its ease-of-processing. Thus, in calculations involving one decimal number, will consumers prefer to add/subtract a rounder number to ease the calculation process, or will they prefer to add/subtract a decimal number to reach an easier and rounder result? To solve this paradox, we predict that when the calculation result is salient, it will activate the goal of reaching a rounder number result, which encourages consumers to engage in a more effortful calculation involving decimal numbers. By pursuing this goal, consumers experience a positive roundup/round-down pleasure, which explains and moderates the effect of preference for rounder results. We demonstrate this effect in the contexts of product choices, tipping decisions, and promotion evaluations.