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, February 28, 2014

Men; Using scarcity to get what they want when they want

‘Only 10 tickets remain!’ and similar tactics of scarcity which tell customers that the ‘must-have’ thing they ‘need’ is in short supply work to persuade people to comply and buy-into the product on offer.

Following on from this logic then, surely the same should be possible for men and women who at different times in life are in different levels of supply. Can men and women use the supply and demand curve to their advantage? The answer is seemingly yes…

Generally it is accepted that there are lower levels of males compared to females, meaning that it is the men who can use their market-scarcity to attract females and establish marital relationships. Whilst the marriage market is not quite subject to the influences of numerical supply and demand; it should naturally be expected that the scarcer sex in the population should have a greater chance of getting married.

However, counter-intuitively when males are scarce they are less likely to get married… Why is this? The answer; because their market scarcity also enhances their short-term mating success and therefore reduces their incentives for commitment. Younger men are quite happy to have several short-term relationships and so do so, and this means that despite being an available option to them, they choose not to marry.

Figure 1- Assuming a constant population of males, the likelihood of marriage increases with ages whilst the likelihood of a short-term relationship decreases. 

What did the study show?

The main finding from the study was that men who were scarce – in low male-sex ratio populations – used their low supply (scarcity) to improve their mating efforts when young. However as the men grew older, these still scarce males would change towards strategies of commitment and marriage.

The Main Takeaway

So basically, the study suggests that men can use their low supply to dictate compliance from a female partner; a scarce man can choose whether he wants a short-term or long-term relationship. Just as on a shopping channel a low-stocked item is viewed in a completely new and desirable way, when it comes to relationships a similar pattern exists.


Kruger, D. J., & Schlemmer, E. (2009). Male Scarcity is Differentially Related to Male Marital Likelihood across the Life Course. Evolutionary Psychology, 7(2).

Alex Lee

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