The processing of price comparison is not holistic but componential
In three experiments, we evaluate whether the processing of prices is holistic or componential. When participants receive two prices and they select the higher price, distance effects are found when the distances between the two prices are defined holistically but not when they are defined in terms of digits (Experiment 1). This result suggests that prices are processed holistically. However, we show that the holistic distance effect can be explained by the compatibility between the digits and the monetary category of prices (euro and cent). After controlling for the holistic distance, compatible trials (e.g., 8 euro–4 cent, 8 > 4, and euro > cent) are processed faster than incompatible trials (e.g., 8 cent–4 euro, 8 > 4 but cent < euro) with simultaneous and sequential presentation of prices (Experiment 2). Moreover, the compatibility effect is modulated by the ratio of intra monetary category comparisons (8 euro–6 euro) and inter monetary category comparisons (8 euro–4 cents) (Experiment 3). The existence of compatibility effects between the digits and the monetary category of prices suggests that cognitive processing of prices is not holistic but componential.
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