Master manipulators know that the way to get people to part with their money is to create an illusion of scarcity. In other words, if you want people clamoring for whatever it is you’re selling, tell people they can’t have it (“Act now! Quantities are limited!”). Next thing you know, they’ll be lining up to pay you even more than you were originally asking! So does the same thing work when it comes to finding a date? Can you enhance your desirability by making yourself less available? A new set of studies suggests that you can.1
In one study, heterosexual college students were presented with profiles of three equally attractive people or “targets” who varied in their level of availability (high, intermediate, or low). When asked to select which target they were most interested in dating or pursuing a committed relationship with, the target with intermediate availability was preferred hands down by both men and women; however, men desired the target with low availability almost as much as the intermediate target. A subsequent study found that when a target was less available, participants reported greater willingness to take that person to a fancy restaurant and shell out even more money for the date.
Overall, these findings tell us that the illusion of scarcity isn’t just an effective marketing strategy for merchandisers; it can also help you score a date and potentially keep them coming back for more.
To read more about this research, check out this article on The Psychology of Human Sexuality.
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1Jonason, P. K., & Li, N. P. (in press). Playing hard‐to‐get: Manipulating one’s perceived availability as a mate. European Journal of Personality.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.