Diffusion of Entitlement: An Inhibitory Effect on the Consumption of Scarce Commodities

Diffusion of Entitlement: An Inhibitory Effect on the Consumption of Scarce Commodities

By
Daniel A. Effron, Dale T. Miller
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. March
2011, Vol. 47, Issue 2, Pages 378–383

Four studies demonstrated that increasing a desirable commodity’s scarcity (i.e., decreasing its supply or increasing demand for it) can inhibit people from claiming the commodity for themselves, thereby delaying its consumption. In Study 1, participants were slower to claim a commodity when its supply was limited versus unlimited. In Study 2, participants expressed more disapproval of someone who took the last commodity compared to the second-last commodity. Participants in Study 3 anticipated that increased demand for a commodity would make them less likely to claim it despite wanting it more. Study 4 showed that the more participants there were who could claim a commodity, the longer it went unclaimed. The inhibitory effect of scarcity was mediated by diminished entitlement to the commodity (Study 3), and increasing entitlement reduced the inhibition against taking scarce commodities (Studies 1 and 2). These findings are discussed in the context of individuals’ concern with equality.