It doesn’t always add up – Bad economic times like these call for extreme measures (at least some very important things are on sale). One problem: not everyone realizes that $1 equals 100 cents.

A new study suggests that, in some situations, people may behave as if 100 cents actually has more value because they pay more attention to the number of coins involved than the actual economic value. So people are more impressed by 100 cents than they are with $1, because 100 is larger than one.

Psychologist John Opfer says, “In some cases, money may just serve as a score?the higher number wins, regardless of the actual value.” This may be why economic rewards don’t necessarily affect people’s behavior. In one of his experiments, Opfer found that students who played for 300 cents cooperated more often than those who played for 3 dollars, even though both groups were playing for the same economic reward.

At least they’re not the only ones. As Opfer says, “We’re not alone in our tendency to treat differences between small numbers as more important than differences among large numbers?pigeons, rats, monkeys and human infants all do the same thing.”

(Thanks, I feel better already).

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