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
Date Written: August 26, 2015
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
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