Goal progress can be measured using different scales (e.g., lbs., kg, oz., inches lost in weight loss domain). Despite considerable research on perceived goal progress, little is known about the effects of measurement scales on the mental representation of goal attainment. We present three studies across various domains (e.g., monetary earnings, loyalty rewards, games) which demonstrate that, when the goal is not specific, the expression of progress as a round number on a certain scale leads to a higher sense of accomplishment compared with expression of identical progress as a non-round number on a different scale. We further show that this effect is moderated by goal and whether the level of actual progress made is high or low. When the goal is specific, scale-induced round numbers lead to higher perceived accomplishment at lower progress levels, whereas, when the goal is not specific, they lead to higher perceived accomplishment at higher progress levels.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Allen, E. J., Dechow, P. M., Pope, D. G., & Wu, G. (2016). Reference-dependent preferences: evidence from marathon runners. Management Science, 63(6), 1657–1672.
Bonezzi, A., Brendl, C. M., & De Angelis, M. (2011). Stuck in the middle: the psychophysics of goal pursuit. Psychological Science, 22(5), 607–612.
Cheema, A., & Bagchi, R. (2011). The effect of goal visualization on goal pursuit: implications for consumers and managers. Journal of Marketing, 75(2), 109–123.
Dehaene, S., & Mehler, J. (1992). Cross-linguistic regularities in the frequency of number words. Cognition, 43(1), 1–29.
Gunasti, K., & Baskin, E. (2018). Is a $200 Nordstrom gift card worth more or less than a $200 GAP gift card? The asymmetric valuations of luxury gift cards. Journal of Retailing, 94(4), 380–392.
Gunasti, K., & Devezer, B. (2016). How competitor brands affect within-brand choice. Marketing Letters, December, 27(4), 715–727.
Gunasti, K., & Ozcan, T. (2016). Consumer reactions to round numbers in brand names. Marketing Letters, 27(2), 309–322.
Gunasti, K., & Ross, W. (2010). How and when alpha-numeric nrands affect consumer preferences. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(6), 1177–1192.
Heath, C., Larrick, R. P., & Wu, G. (1999). Goals as reference points. Cognitive Psychology, 38(1), 79–109.
Huang, S. C., & Zhang, Y. (2011). Motivational consequences of perceived velocity in consumer goal pursuit. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(6), 1045–1056.
Huang, S. C., Zhang, Y., & Broniarczyk, S. M. (2012). So near and yet so far: the mental representation of goal progress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(2), 225–241.
Hull, C. L. (1932). The goal-gradient hypothesis and maze learning. Psychological Review, 39(1), 25–43.
Kara, S., Gunasti, K., & Ross, W. (2015). Is it the ‘alpha’ or the ‘numeric’?: consumers’ evaluation of letter versus number changes alphanumeric brand names. Journal of Brand Management, 22(6), 515–533.
Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., & Zheng, Y. (2006). The goal-gradient hypothesis resurrected: purchase acceleration, illusionary goal progress, and customer retention. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(1), 39–58.
Koo, M., & Fishbach, A. (2012). The small-area hypothesis: effects of progress monitoring on goal adherence. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(3), 493–509.
Louro, M. J., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2007). Dynamics of multiple-goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(2), 174–193.
Lynn, M., Flynn, S. M., & Helion, C. (2013). Do consumers prefer round prices? Evidence from pay-what-you-want decisions and self-pumped gasoline purchases. Journal of Economic Psychology, 36, 96–102.
Ozcan, T., & Gunasti, K. (2019). How associations between products and numbers in brand names affect consumer attitudes. Journal of Brand Management, 26(2), 176–194.
Pena-Marin, J., & Bhargave, R. (2016). Lasting performance: Round numbers activate associations of stability and increase perceived length of product benefits. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 26(3), 410–416.
Pope, D., & Simonsohn, U. (2011). Round numbers as goals: evidence from baseball, SAT takers, and the lab. Psychological Science, 22(1), 71–79.
Scott, M., & Nowlis, S. (2013). The effect of goal specificity on consumer goal reengagement. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), 444–459.
Soman, D., & Zhao, M. (2011). The fewer the better: number of goals and savings behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(6), 944–957.
Thaler, R., & Sunstein, C. (2008). Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Wallace, S. G., & Etkin, J. (2018). How goal specificity shapes motivation: a reference points perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 44(5), 1033–1051.
Wertenbroch, K., Soman, D., & Chattopadhyay, A. (2007). On the perceived value of money: the reference dependence of currency numerosity effects. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(1), 1–10.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Gunasti, K., Ozcan, T. The role of scale-induced round numbers and goal specificity on goal accomplishment perceptions. Mark Lett 30, 207–217 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-019-09492-w
- Goal specificity
- Round numbers