Do humans really have a head for numbers?Eight out of ten owners say their cats prefer Whiskas. (Other pet foods are available.) Do you remember this famous advertising slogan? Maybe Pedigree Pet Foods would have done better if they had said “80 per cent of cat owners” instead of “eight out of ten”. The reason, according to new consumer research is that even  though we know that the two figures represent the same numerical proportions we somehow feel that 80% is bigger than 8 out of 10.

The researchers found, for instance, that people felt the difference between a 7 year warranty and a 9 year warranty was pretty minimal. But the same people thought the gap between an 84 month warranty and a 108 month warranty was much larger – even though they are the same time period. What seems to be happening is we see the difference between the two items in years as a mere 2, but when we look at months we get a bigger number – 24. Hence the mere size of the number makes us think bigger is better – even when they are different ways of describing the same thing.

So, you can use this to your benefit online. Rather than offering a three month money back guarantee, offer a 90-day one instead. Similarly, rather than say you will get delivery in 24 hours, say delivery is in 1 day (smaller seems better in this instance).  However, be warned, the researchers found that if you remind people about the nature of the numbers or explain the numerical measurement you are using, they no longer make errors in perception.

And as for me…well my cat hates Whiskas. So I am one of the 200 in every 1,000 who thinks so. (Work it out…!)

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