Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

By Nathan Seppa, 14:37 PM September 10, 2013

Shortages can gnaw at more than your belly. Mullainathan and Shafir argue that scarcity — whether of food, time or anything else — changes how you think. At the personal level, focusing on what’s lacking induces irrational patterns of thinking, changing a person’s behavior and laying traps that spring later.

“Scarcity captures the mind,” write the authors, an economist and a psychologist. In research on hunger in the 1940s, volunteers who ate very little food for months didn’t just lose weight...

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