Comparative judgments of numerical and verbal attribute labels

Madhubalan Viswanathan, Sunder Narayanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers often compare brands on specific product attributes using numerical and verbal information. We report three experiments that examined comparisons of pairs of numerical and verbal labels describing product attributes. Past psychological findings on the speed of comparisons, the effect of distances between pairs of labels being compared, and the effect of task instructions were assessed in a product attribute context. Consistent with earlier work, numerical label pairs were judged faster than either verbal pairs or numerical/verbal pairs. Evidence of the effects of distance and task instructions was found for numerical/verbal label pairs. However, contrary to past findings, these effects did not occur consistently with either purely verbal or purely numerical pairs. In addition, consumer preference for higher or lower values on an attribute was hypothesized and found to influence comparisons. The findings are interpreted in terms of a psychological model of comparative judgment. Explanations offered for inconsistent findings include the possibility of surface-level (vs. meaning-level) processing of the product attribute labels, particularly for numerical label pairs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-101
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing

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