Scarcity, engagement, and value
Author(s)Sehnert, Steen; Franks, Becca; Higgins, E. Tory; Yap, Andy Jiexiong
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Scarcity has been found to intensify value, positive or negative, rather than simply enhancing it. Some researchers have proposed that scarcity affects value by increasing how much attention is paid to a stimulus. We conceptualized sustained attention as stronger engagement and operationalized a situation of scarcity by telling participants who were choosing between two objects that the object that was chosen would then be replaced (Replenish) or not replaced (Scarce). To distinguish sustained attention-stronger engagement in a situation of scarcity from grabbing attention (salience from distinctiveness), the choice was between one option with a single instance (solitary-high salience) and a second option with several duplicates (abundant-low salience). We predicted that stronger engagement from a situation of scarcity would, first, intensify the value of the chosen item regardless of whether it was solitary or abundant, with positive items becoming more positive and negative items becoming more negative, and second, the stronger engagement from the situation of scarcity would transfer intensification to another separate object in the same setting. The results of Studies 1 and 2 supported both of these predictions. Study 3 tested a boundary condition for these scarcity–engagement effects in terms of how real participants experienced the choice items to be, where ‘realness’ is another source of engagement strength. As expected, the scarcity–engagement effect on intensifying value was replicated for participants who experienced the activity as real but was eliminated for those who did not.
DepartmentSloan School of Management
Motivation and Emotion
Sehnert, Steen et al. “Scarcity, Engagement, and Value.” Motivation and Emotion 38.6 (2014): 823–831.
Author's final manuscript