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On the Psychology of Scarcity: When Reminders of Resource Scarcity Promote Selfish (and Generous) Behavior

Journal of Consumer Research (2015); doi: 10.1093/jcr/ucv048

71 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2012 Last revised: 13 Sep 2015

Caroline Roux

Concordia University, John Molson School of Business

Kelly Goldsmith

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Andrea Bonezzi

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Date Written: August 26, 2015

Abstract

Consumers often encounter reminders of resource scarcity. However, relatively little is known about the psychological processes that such reminders instantiate. In this article, we posit that reminders of resource scarcity activate a competitive orientation, which guides consumers’ decision making towards advancing their own welfare. Further, we reveal that this tendency can manifest in behaviors that appear selfish, but also in behaviors that appear generous, in conditions where generosity allows for personal gains. The current research thus offers a more nuanced understanding of why resource scarcity may promote behaviors that appear either selfish or generous in different contexts, and provides one way to reconcile seemingly conflicting prior findings.

Keywords: resource scarcity, selfishness, generosity, competitive orientation, welfare advancement, judgment and decision making, social psychology, consumer behavior, marketing

Suggested Citation

Roux, Caroline and Goldsmith, Kelly and Bonezzi, Andrea, On the Psychology of Scarcity: When Reminders of Resource Scarcity Promote Selfish (and Generous) Behavior (August 26, 2015). Journal of Consumer Research (2015); doi: 10.1093/jcr/ucv048. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2147919 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2147919

Caroline Roux

Concordia University, John Molson School of Business ( email )

1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/profcaroroux/

Kelly Goldsmith (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Andrea Bonezzi

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

44 West 4th Street
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

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