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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why we really want Apple products? - The less there is, the better it is?

Worchel, Lee and Adewole conducted a research paper “The effects of Supply and Demand on Ratings of Object value” which explores how knowing the availability and the demands of a product can affect the value of that item (Worchel, Lee & Adewole, 1975). In their experiment, participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of cookies, which would determine the value of that cookie (high attractiveness = high value). There were various conditions to the experiment. In the scarce condition, the cookies were either constantly scarce or they began in abundant supply and then decreased. Subjects were told that this decrease in supply was cither due to an accident or to a high demand for the cookies. In the abundant condition, the cookies were either constantly abundant or first scarce and then abundant. The increase in supply was either due to an accident or to a lack of demand for the cookies. They found that the cookies were considered more attractive/desirable in scarce supply then cookies in abundant supply. Also, participants rated cookies as more valuable when their supply changed from abundant to scarce in comparison to when they were constantly In low supply (always scarce). These findings illustrate two reasons as to why scarcity is an effective influence device – scarcity makes a product more desirable and valuable. The research article suggests that People are influenced into obtaining items that are rare because the possession of it may result in increasing their feelings of uniqueness and self-worth (Pratkanis, 2007) which allows them to publicly display their economic power – this serves as a basis for why people spend money on luxury goods and services.

Figure 1. Shows the impact/influence that supply of a object has on the product’s quality ratings in terms of desirability and value characteristics

An example of a luxury product, where scarcity is effectively used to increase the desirability and value of the product is Apple products. One way that Apple masters the art of effective marketing is by launching their products with limited availability. By doing this, their products are often perceived as being of higher value that those that are easily available. This Strategy, called “scarcity” is very effective as a persuasion tactic. People are programmed into thinking that since the Apple products are of limited supply, they must be more valuable than other products that have endless supply and is freely available. The limited availability of the Apple products creates a sense of urgency and panic for customers to buy it (Pratkanis, 2007). This explains why the iphone5 was able to cause long queues of people eager to obtain the product and set a record for first-day sales


Worchel, S., Lee, J., & Adewole, A. (1975). Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology32(5), 906-914.

Pratkanis, A. (2007). The science of social influence. New York: Psychology Press.

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