Falling Back on Numbers: When Preference for Numerical Product Information Increases after a Personal Control Threat
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Despite the ubiquity of numerical information in consumers' lives, prior research has provided limited insights to marketers about when numerical information exerts greater impact on decisions. This study offers evidence that judgments involving numerical information can be affected by consumers' sense of personal control over the environment. A numerical attribute's format communicates the extent to which the magnitude of a benefit is predictable (Study 1a), such that people who experience a control threat and want to see their external environment as predictable (Study 1b) rely on point value (vs. range) information as a general signal that the environment is predictable (Study 2). A personal control threat changes consumers' preferences as a function of whether the numerical information appears as a point value or a range (Studies 3-4). This heightened focus on format may lessen the impact of a product benefit's predicted magnitude, if a lower magnitude is specified in a more precise format (Study 5). Study 6 provides first evidence that the interactive effect of personal control levels and numerical formats can affect consequential choices.