Do consumers really read a price from left to right, as assumed in past research? Or does price reading operate like word reading, with a single fixation towards the middle? Three eye-tracking lab studies reject both theories, revealing instead a distinct reading pattern: multiple fixations, with the first located on average between the first third and middle of the price; the first eye movement is usually to the left; and subsequent eye movements are as often to the left as to the right. Overall, consumers pay as much attention to cents as euros, with the cents part influencing how prices are encoded in memory, as evidenced by an in-store price-recall survey. The reading process identifies whether to encode a price verbally as is or replace it with a shorter substitute that is easier to memorize and turns out to be well-correlated with the actual price (r = .952). When consumers compare two prices, whether the prices have identical integer parts affects eye movements and subsequent subjective estimation of the price difference. The combined findings of four studies suggest that consumers have developed a reliable, efficient ability to read and encode prices, despite limitations of their visual span and working memory.
LAURENT, G. et VANHUELE, M. (2023). How Do Consumers Read and Encode a Price? Journal of Consumer Research, 50(3), pp. 510-532.