Financial Deprivation Prompts Consumers to Seek Scarce Goods
By Adam Alter Assistant Professor of Marketing with affiliated appointment in the Psychology Department and PhD student Eesha Sharma
Our findings suggest a novel route along which deprived consumers unwittingly travel as they attempt to alleviate the discomfort that follows deprivation.
Over the course of five studies, the authors examined the relationship between how financially comfortable consumers felt and their preference for scarce goods. The authors both measured and manipulated this sense of financial wellbeing, and found that consumers who felt financially deprived preferred scarce products. Specifically, those people:
- Detected which of two goods was more scarce in a series of visual scenarios with greater accuracy
- Chose scarce rather than abundant but otherwise similar goods (e.g., candy bars that varied in availability in a vending machine) with higher frequency
- Consumed a larger amount of goods that appeared to be scarce rather than abundant (e.g., M&Ms of two different colors, presented in different proportions in a cup)
To read the full paper, titled, "Financial Deprivation Prompts Consumers to Seek Scarce Goods" and forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, visit: