Do round numbers make us work harder?

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Where do people’s reference points come from? We conjectured that round numbers in performance scales act as reference points and that individuals exert effort to perform just above rather than just below such numbers. In Study 1, we found that professional baseball players modify their behavior as the season is about to end, seeking to finish with a batting average just above rather than below .300. In Study 2, we found that high school students are more likely to retake the SAT after obtaining a score just below rather than above a round number. In Study 3, we conducted an experiment employing hypothetical scenarios and found that participants reported a greater desire to exert more effort when their performance was just short of rather than just above a round number.

Source: “Round Numbers as Goals, Evidence From Baseball, SAT Takers, and the Lab” from Psychological Science

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