Consumer understanding and use of numeric information in product claims
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Numeric information is often presented to consumers in order to communicate important and precise information that is not well communicated through non-numeric information. The assumption of marketers, then, seems to be that numeric information is useful for consumers in evaluating products. Do consumers understand and use such numerical information in product claims? Recent research suggests that many people are "innumerate" and about half of Americans lack the minimal mathematical skills needed to use numbers embedded in printed materials. This suggests that many Americans lack the minimal mathematical skills needed to use numbers embedded in product claims and other marketing communications. In a series of five experiments, I investigated if and how consumers understand and use numeric information presented in product claims in their evaluation of consumer goods. The results demonstrated that participants, and especially less numerate individuals, were susceptible to an Illusion-of-Numeric-Truth effect: they judged false claim as true when numeric meaning was inaccurately translated (e.g., "30% of consumers" inaccurately translated to " most consumers"). Mediation analysis suggested that highly numerate participants were better at developing affective reactions toward numeric information in product claims and using these affective reactions as information when they were faced with truth judgments. Highly numerate individuals were also more sensitive to different levels of numeric information in their product evaluations. This sensitivity also seemed to depend on their drawing affective meaning from numbers and number comparisons and using this information in product evaluations. Although less numerate individuals reported that numeric information is important, they were less sensitive to numeric information unless they were encouraged to process numeric information more systematically. The results from this dissertation indicate that not all numeric information will be used and be useful to all consumers. Therefore, simply presenting numeric information may not be sufficient for numeric information to be useful for all consumers.