Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Get your tickets now!

A couple of weeks ago my friend was attempting to convince me to join them on a night out later that week. While I felt pretty indifferent to the night, my friend deployed the persuasion method of scarcity to convince me, informing me that they would run out if I didn't buy one fast.

This persuasion is an example of making a product appear scarce in order to make it more appealing. Worchel, Lee and Adewole (1975) proved such an effect with the use of cookies. Participants were sat at a table and presented with a jar containing either 2 or 10 cookies. A confederate then entered the room with another jar which would replace and change the number of cookies to the one on the table or enter with no jar at all. This created the conditions scarce-change (start with 10 cookies, change to 2), abundant-change (start with 2 cookies, change to 10), scarce-no change (start with 2, stay with 2) or abundant no-change (start with 10, stay with 10).

After this manipulation, the confederate left and the experimenter asked the participant to rate the cookies on scales of liking (1 = very much so, 9 = not at all), attractiveness (1 = extremely attractive, 9 = not at all) and cost (how much should this item cost?). Results can be seen in table 1.

Scarcity Change
Abundance Change
Scarcity No Change
Abundance No Change

Table 1. Mean scores of liking, attraction and cost across the different conditions.

It is clear from the results that, even without change, the mere fact there are fewer cookies leads to increased liking and attractiveness, but not cost. When change occurs, scarcity increases the price, as well as a larger preference in terms of liking and attraction.

This applies to the persuasion of my friend, whereby the scarcity of the tickets increased my attraction for the event. The results of the above study also suggest that as a result of this persuasion, I would be likely to pay more since they were "running out fast!".

Worchel, S., Lee, J., & Adewole, A. (1975). Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 906-914.

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