Monday, November 12, 2007

Resisting Influence: Scarcity and Competition

Cialdini’s Principles of Social Influence

[Context: Competition]
People assign more value to opportunities when they are less available—if there are fewer resources and less time to get them, we want it more

The Basics

Principle holds true for two reasons:
  • Things that are difficult to attain are typically more valuable – availability of item can serve as a shortcut heuristic cue to its quality
  • As things become less accessible, we lose freedoms – respond to loss of freedoms by wanting to have them more than before

Optimizing conditions for scarcity principle:
  • Value newly scarce items more than items that have been restricted all along
  • Most attracted to scarce resources when we must compete with others for them – have an emotion-arousing quality that makes critical thinking difficult (Eg. As in auctions where bidders will outbid each other and pay more than item is worth rather than to yield up the scarce item)
How It's Exploited
  • Use of this principle for profit can be seen in compliance techniques as ‘limited number’ and ‘deadline’ tactics in which persuaders try to convince us that access is restricted by amount or time.
  • Bush administration used a variation of this theme in justifying rush to war in Iraq: time is running out for Saddam unless we stop him now he will use his WMD against us
Best Defense
  • We should step back and assess the merits of the opportunity, the value of the item, the deal solely in terms of why we want it
  • We should aim to give as objective an evaluation of its personal value, and not overvalue it simply because it is scarce-- or has the appearance of being scarce.
Prepared by Philip Zimbardo and Cindy X. Wang

©2006-2007, Philip G. Zimbardo