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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Catch them while you can!

Whilst walking through co-op this evening, to try and buy myself something healthy for dinner, I spotted my all-time favourite Easter chocolate – the Malteaster Bunny. Above the box full of these tasty treats was an enticing header with the words ‘Catch them while you can!’ I was instantly reminded that these delights are only available for a few months and grabbed one before I could think twice about how this counteracts my couscous salad dinner.

The money-grabbing technique at use here is scarcity. As humans we believe that if something is rare and not always readily available then it must be valuable. Making an object seem rare increases its perceived value. Thus, making people want it more and want to buy it more as it seems valuable and therefore makes us feel like we need it. If we do not possess something that is rare feelings of frustration can be created within us and make us feel like we are lacking in some way. In this case we are made to feel as though we need to buy the Malteaster Bunny before they are no longer on sale in shops. We are also probably rating the Bunny as a lot better than it actually is due to its rarity!

Worchel, Lee and Adewole (1975) demonstrated this phenomenon using cookies. They got participants to rate cookies on value and attractiveness; the cookies were either constantly scarce, began in abundant supply and decreased, constantly abundant, or first scarce and then abundant. Their results indicated that cookies which were in scarce supply were rated as more desirable than those in abundant supply. They also found that when the supply of cookies changed from abundant to scarce they were rated as more valuable than when they were constantly scarce. These results are illustrated in table 1 below.

All you have to do is imagine the cookies are Malteaster Bunnies and, hey presto, you can see exactly what is happening here! The Malteaster Bunnies are made to seem in scarce supply as they are not always available, so you feel the need to possess one to ensure you don’t miss out on that delicious crunch yet creamy filling!

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.

Danielle Huskinson

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