A scarcity mindset alters neural processing underlying consumer decision making

Inge Huijsmans, Ili Ma, Leticia Micheli, Claudia Civai, Mirre Stallen, Alan G. Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Not having enough of what one needs has long been shown to have detrimental consequences for decision making. Recent work suggests that the experience of insufficient resources can create a "scarcity" mindset; increasing attention toward the scarce resource itself, but at the cost of attention for unrelated aspects. To investigate the effects of a scarcity mindset on consumer choice behavior, as well as its underlying neural mechanisms, we used an experimental manipulation to induce both a scarcity and an abundance mindset within participants and examined the effects of both mindsets on participants' willingness to pay for familiar food items while being scanned using fMRI. Results demonstrated that a scarcity mindset affects neural mechanisms related to consumer decision making. When in a scarcity mindset compared with an abundance mindset, participants had increased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region often implicated in valuation processes. Moreover, again compared with abundance, a scarcity mindset decreased activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area well known for its role in goal-directed choice. This effect was predominant in the group of participants who experienced scarcity following abundance, suggesting that the effects of scarcity are largest when they are compared with previous situations when resources were plentiful. More broadly, these data suggest a potential neural locus for a scarcity mindset and demonstrate how these changes in brain activity might underlie goal-directed decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11699-11704
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019

Keywords

  • scarcity
  • consumer choice
  • fMRI
  • DORSOLATERAL PREFRONTAL CORTEX
  • ACUTE STRESS
  • POVERTY
  • VALUATION
  • METAANALYSIS
  • CONSUMPTION
  • ACTIVATION
  • PARIETAL
  • CHOICE
  • BRAIN

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