Prevention of Attainment Increases Desire, Decreases Attractiveness

Being pre­ven­ted from obtain­ing some­thing we desire sim­ul­tan­eously increases our desire for the item and decreases its even­tu­al attract­ive­ness. That’s the coun­ter­in­tu­it­ive res­ult from a study that shows the vari­ous sur­pris­ing effects of “being jilted”.

We show how being “jilted”–that is, being thwarted from obtain­ing a desired outcome–can con­cur­rently increase desire to obtain the out­come, but reduce its actu­al attract­ive­ness. Thus, people can come to both want some­thing more and like it less. […] In Exper­i­ment 1, par­ti­cipants who failed to win a prize were will­ing to pay more for it than those who won it, but were also more likely to trade it away when they ulti­mately obtained it. In Exper­i­ment 2, fail­ure to obtain an expec­ted reward led to increased choice, but also neg­at­ively biased eval­u­ation, of an item that was merely sim­il­ar to that reward.

It seems that by being unavail­able our expect­a­tions are raised to an unreas­on­able degree and we even­tu­ally become dis­ap­poin­ted. I guess this is a warn­ing for those think­ing of scarcity mar­ket­ing.