Bargain hunting and how the brain understands numbers

By: Daniel Glaser | Bargain hunting and how the brain understands numbers | Neuroscience | The Guardian

If you enjoy getting a good deal, the figure you begin at is all important

If you are among the lucky ones returning from a summer holiday this week, you might have brought back some souvenirs from markets where you bargained hard to get a good deal – or so you thought.

Even if you think you’ve got a brilliant price, the brain can easily be influenced to pay more – even by as little as a random number. In a study based on work by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a scientist went for a walk with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a bag full of ping-pong balls in the other. He told passers by that the balls had random numbers on, and asked them to pick one, which said 10 on it. When he asked the most they’d pay for the champagne, they said around £25. In fact, while the subjects believed the balls were random, they weren’t: every ball had 10 on. When the experiment was repeated with balls saying 65, the maximum amounts raised to around £45.

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