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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Meyrav Shoham (meyravs@gmail.com) is a lecturer of marketing, Graduate School of Business Administration, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 5290002, Israel. Sarit Moldovan (saritmo@openu.ac.il) is a senior lecturer of marketing, Department of Management and Economics, the Open University of Israel, Raanana 4353701, Israel. Yael Steinhart (ysteinhart@tau.ac.il) is an associate professor of marketing, Coller School of Management, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel. Please address correspondence to Meyrav Shoham. This research was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1197/15), the Open University of Israel Research Fund, the Jeremy Coller Foundation, and the Henry Crown Institute of Business Research. The authors would like to thank the editor, associate editor, and three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and guidance throughout the review process. The authors are also grateful to Darren Dahl, Shai Danziger, Nira Munichor, Manoj Thomas, Kimberlee Weaver, and the participants of the HEC Paris Marketing Department seminar for their helpful feedback and suggestions regarding this research. Supplementary materials are included in the web appendix accompanying the online version of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. All rights reserved.


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


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