Do some prices sound better than others?

This study shows that some numbers “sound” lower than others. This varies by language. The prices that sound lower in English, don’t sound lower in Chinese:

Studies suggest that certain vowel and consonant sounds (or phonemes) can be associated with perceptions of large and small size. Mental rehearsal of prices containing numbers with small phonemes results in overestimation of price discounts, whereas mental rehearsal of prices containing numbers with large phonemes results in underestimation. Mental rehearsal of the same sale prices characterized by small phonemes in one language and large phonemes in another language can yield differential effects. For example, when sale prices are rehearsed in English, an (28.4%) discount is perceived as greater than a (29.9%) discount; however, when these same prices are rehearsed in Chinese, the latter discount is perceived as greater. Non-price-related phonemes do not yield these same discount distortions. Collectively, findings indicate that the mere sounds of numbers can nonconsciously affect and distort numerical magnitude perceptions.

Source: “Small Sounds, Big Deals: Phonetic Symbolism Effects in Pricing” from Journal of Consumer Research.

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