Slider Scale or Text Box: How Response Format Shapes Responses

Manoj Thomas and Ellie J. Kyung, 2018, 18-122-08

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Managers and researchers increasingly use textboxes and slider scales interchangeably to collect price, donations, or willingness-to-pay information from people. For example, Priceline collects “name your own price” bid information through a textbox on its website, but through a slider scale on its mobile app. Many times, these format choices are made for interface considerations.

In this study, Manoj Thomas and Ellie J. Kyung suggest that these response formats should not be used interchangeably because numeric responses elicited on slider scales can be systematically different from those elicited through textboxes.

When people use textboxes to submit numeric responses, they evaluate numeric magnitudes relative to the starting point of the response range. In contrast, when people use slider scales, they evaluate numeric magnitudes by considering the visual distances from the starting point as well as the endpoint of the response range. Because of this, numeric responses on slider scales are more likely to be assimilated towards the endpoint of the scale. The authors demonstrate this endpoint assimilation effect through 11 experiments, showing that it varies for ascending and descending payment formats and that its strength depends on factors related to visualization of the slider scale itself.

For ascending payment formats, where consumers offer payment values higher than a starting price (e.g., eBay), slider scales elicit higher values than textboxes. For descending payment formats, where consumers offer payment values lower than a starting price (e.g., Priceline), slider scales elicit lower values than textboxes. Across their studies, in ascending payment formats where slider scales started at a zero value, values solicited through slider scales were on average 66% higher than those solicited through textbox values. For ascending payment formats where slider scales started at non-zero values (i.e., $239, $259, $279), values solicited through slider scales were on average 5% higher than those solicited through textboxes (taking into account the starting value, the relative difference between these values in terms of distance from starting point is 52%). For descending payment formats, values solicited through textboxes were on average 10% higher than those solicited through slider scales.

Marketing implications

Seemingly simple interface changes can have a material effect on consumer payments: slider scales can change how consumer mentally visualize prices and shift whether they perceive them as low, medium, or high. Furthermore, this effect extends not only to slider scales, but any format that creates a visual line. Thus managers should exercise caution when making format choices involving any kind of numeric payment, bidding, or donation information.

Manoj Thomas is Associate Professor of Management, Cornell University, SC Johnson College of Business and Ellie J. Kyung is Associate Professor of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business.

This was a truly collaborative experience; both authors contributed equally to this research and they equally enjoyed the collaboration. Supplemental materials, including experiment stimuli, additional graphs, and supplementary analyses are available in the Online Web Appendix. This research has benefitted from feedback at various seminars and conferences including Effect of Numerical Markers on Consumer Judgment and Decision Making at Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina, the New Directions in Pricing Management Research and Practice at University of Illinois, the Northeast Marketing Conference at Harvard Business School, the Marketing Department at IDC Herzliya, Marketing Seminar at Texas A&M May’s School, The Wharton School Decision Processes Colloquia, and Cornell University Marketing Seminar.

The authors are grateful to Kevin Keller for his thoughtful feedback; Matthew Paronto, Brad Turner, and Geoff Gunning for helping them write clearly; Yifan He for her research assistance; Sachin Gupta, Kusum Ailawadi, Scott Neslin, Blake McShane and Paul Wolfson for their advice on statistical analyses; and Maxine Park and Roxane Park for pretesting stimuli. The authors thank Bob Burnham for his programming genius creating the convex slider scale used in experiment 5 and the anonymous Reviewer C and John Hauser for making this suggestion. Finally, the authors thank the JCR review team—the editors, three reviewers, and two trainee reviewers—for their thoughtful and constructive feedback that greatly strengthened our research.


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