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Scarcity: The Rule of The Few

The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making.

Things become more appealing to us when their availability is limited. People are more motivated by the thought of losing something over the thought of gaining something—even when both are of equal value. This rule is often used by salespeople. When something is advertised as running out of stock fast, people will be more likely to purchase it. Another commonly used method is the deadline method; when a deadline to purchase an item is set, people will rush to buy it.

This principle of scarcity relies on the fact that humans hate to lose their freedom, and the idea of losing out on something makes them feel as if they will also lose their freedom (e.g., to purchase the item).

Another aspect of this principle is when the scarcity occurs—people value things that have recently become scarce to them as opposed to the things that have always been scarce. Additionally, things that have become scarce due to social demand, e.g., they have been given away to someone else, are the most valued.

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