Vowel Sounds and Price Perceptions

How the vow­els in words are pro­nounced has an influ­ence on how we per­ceive the size of an item. This ‘phon­et­ic sym­bol­ism’ has also been shown to effect how we per­ceive prices:

Research­ers have known for 80 years about a sym­bol­ic con­nec­tion between speech and size: back-of-the-mouth vow­els like the “o” in “two” make people think of large sizes, where­as people asso­ci­ate front-of-the-mouth vow­els like “ee” with dimin­ut­ive­ness. Mar­keters can use this effect to make con­sumers think a dis­count is big­ger or smal­ler than it truly is. […]

In one exper­i­ment, research­ers told con­sumers the reg­u­lar and sale prices of a product, asked them to repeat the sale price to them­selves, and then, a few minutes later, told them to estim­ate the size of the dis­count in per­cent­age terms. Products with “small-sound­ing” sale prices (like $2.33) seemed like bet­ter deals than products with “big-sound­ing” sales prices (like $2.22).

In anoth­er exper­i­ment, the research­ers used a pair of sale prices — $7.88, which sounds “big” in Eng­lish, and $7.01, which sounds “small” — but are the oth­er way around in Chinese. Chinese and Eng­lish speak­ers had oppos­ite per­cep­tions of the products’ rel­at­ive value.

The authors of the study have also shown how, for dis­coun­ted items, we per­ceive the dis­count on items to be lar­ger when the right-most digit of its price is small (less than 5): the right digit effect.