MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- There's a much greater
chance that U.S. high school students will retake the SAT if they
score just below a round number (such as 1200) than if they score
just above it, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed a set of SAT scores from 1994 to 2001 and
found gaps just below 1000, 1100, 1200 and so on. This indicates
that students who got those scores were more likely to retake the
test and have their score below a round number replaced by another
score, according to the authors.
The study, published in the journal
Psychological Science, shows that round numbers are strong motivators.
The change in SAT scores probably didn't make a big difference
in the students' lives, noted Uri Simonsohn of the University of
Pennsylvania. He's concerned that students who score just under a
round number might be wasting their time retaking the SAT to
achieve a pointless goal rather than doing something more
In an experiment, Simonsohn and colleague Devin Pope, of the
University of Chicago, found that people who imagined running laps
were more likely to say they'd do another lap if they had completed
19 rather than 20.
The findings show that round numbers have a strong effect and
that people will take major action to reach round number-related
goals, the researchers said.
For a brief essay on the psychology of numbers, visit the
archives of the
University of Waterloo.