Business, College of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Gupta Shipra (2013), "The psychological effects of perceived scarcity on consumers’ buying behavior," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Interdepartmental Area of Business (Marketing), Under the Supervision of Professor James W. Gentry. Lincoln, Nebraska: June 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Shipra Gupta


This research seeks to provide an understanding of consumers’ psychological responses to the scarcity environments that are strategically created by retailers. A mixed method design provides both qualitative and statistical understanding of this phenomenon. The findings across four studies define a new construct that captures consumers’ understanding of the product shortage that is strategically created by the retailer, differentiates it from scarcity situations where the retailer does not necessary limit the supply of the product, and suggests that consumers react differently in the varied conditions. The study suggests that strategically controlled environments, by creating product uncertainty, are able to motivate behaviors such as urgency to buy. It is further suggested that urgency to buy is mediated by emotions like anticipated regret that these retailers are able to successfully generate in the mind of the consumer. Further, scarcity communicated by the retailer threatens consumers’ freedom, thus triggering psychological reactance and encouraging them to take immediate actions like in–store hoarding and in–store hiding, to safeguard their behavioral freedom. The study also takes into account individual traits like competitiveness, hedonic shopping motivations, and need for uniqueness, and examines their influence on consumers’ behavioral responses. The results suggest that consumers high on these traits are more likely to exhibit competitive and deviant behaviors like in–store hoarding and in–store hiding. Also, the role of gender is examined and it is suggested that, unlike their stereotypical apparel buying behaviors, males with high hedonic shopping motivations are more likely to exhibit behaviors like in–store hoarding and in–store hiding. By examining consumers’ psychological and behavioral responses to human–induced scarcity conditions, this research seeks to make theoretical contribution to the scarcity literature. From a methodological stand point, this research contributes to the consumer and retail literature by defining and operationalizing constructs like perceived scarcity, urgency to buy, and in–store hiding.

Adviser: James W. Gentry