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.