Researchers studied SAT scores from 1994 to 2001, which was before the SAT scoring system changed and the maximum score was still 1600. The researchers found gaps just below 1000, 1100, 1200, and so on, indicating that people who got those scores were more likely to have retaken the test. (Previous scores don’t show up in that database.) Such statistical trends point to the motivating power of round numbers, according to the researchers, who also found that baseball players are four times more likely to end a season with a .300 batting average than a .299.
A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2011 edition of Education Week as Motivational Psychology