Does Thinking About Scarcity Make People More Selfish or Generous?

People often think about, worry about, or discuss scarcity-related concerns, but relatively little is known about their impact on people’s thoughts, judgment and behavior. Do scarcity-related thoughts prompt people to behave in a more selfish or generous manner, since both behaviors intuitively make sense in a context of scarcity? Prior research provides conflicting answers to this question. While some prior work demonstrated that resource scarcity can increase generous behavior (e.g., donating a greater proportion of one’s income), other work has shown that resource scarcity can prompt selfish behavior (e.g., refusing to share financial resources with an anonymous other).

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