Scarcity: Having less making you want more.

We as people have the innate tendency to value things more that are seen as a limited resource whether it is something is that you cant have or something that you already own but its availability has begun to decrease. Robert Caldini best known for his ideas's of influence in his book Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion states that the idea that something is less available can enhance its desirability through fear that you are losing out on a potential opportunity; and this can cause you to act hastily when you normally wouldn't. Scarcity is used in a variety of situations such as advertising, dating, economics, sales etc. There are some common principles in regards to the use of scarcity which are transferable and commonly used in different contexts on addition to the ones previously mentioned.


There are three ways as to how availability can be threatened...


A deadline.
An effective way to make an opportunity scarce is to give it a deadline, this is because like most people you do not act unless you have to; for example if someone says '' I have a car to give you to you for free, you can pick it up when ever you want'' then it is going to be indefinitely available and then there's no rush to get it immediately because it'll be there tomorrow... and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on. But give it a deadline such as ''I have a car to give to you for free but only until Wednesday when I'll then decide to sell it'' then you will be compelled to act fast in case of missing an opportunity and reaching the point of no return.


Banning and restriction.
The cliche phrase of ''you want what you can't have'' holds true because the rule of scarcity suggests we value things that are unavailable, if someone banned or restricted something from you it gives the object greater value in your eyes and makes you want to have it that little bit more. Books such as The Clockwork Orange, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Fallen Angels have all been banned at one time in or another in America which ironically resulted in the increase of sales, where as if there was no ban or restriction to these books then it would be highly unlikely that people would have taken as much  of an interest in them as they did anyway.


Limited quantity.
A limited quantity of an item can make people act with more urgency much like a deadline discussed earlier, think about what advertising always tells us ''Act now while supplies last!'', ''Limited supplies left!'', ''Only few are available!'', these phrases are designed to make people act quicker to catch the deal before it is gone forever. This principle can also make objects seemingly attractive, for instance diamonds; they are seen as a rare stone and because of this they are very expensive which makes them more scarce to most people as not everybody can afford them. The funny thing is diamonds are not actually rare (though they were in the past), because of higher interests the supplies of diamonds are limited to increase their value thus increasing their desirability.   



Robert Caldini states that scarcity is based off a similar phenomenon called reactance theory, which was first coined by psychologist Jack Brehm. Reactance theory effects one main component in driving human behaviour; our need to keep our freedoms. To elaborate; when our freedom to perform a certain behaviour is threatened or restricted, we have more desire to perform that behaviour. So when our free choice is limited/threatened by the restriction of something that we had access to before, we are motivated to regain control and possess the item more than we previously wanted to so we can maintain that free choice.

Much like when someone says to you ''I want to tell you something'' at that point your interested and offer to listen but your nonchalant about it, then not long after that they suddenly say ''actually don't worry about it, maybe I shouldn't tell you'' .... your interest has suddenly now peaked and your now hassling this person to tell you what they were going to tell you in the first place, you have pretty much changed your attitude simply because of the restriction of information you assumed you was getting anyway. That is how effective reactance theory can be.



Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion

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