ArticlePDF Available

Creating When You Have Less: The Impact of Resource Scarcity on Product Use Creativity

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This research examines how a general sense of resource availability influences consumers’ product use creativity. The authors propose and demonstrate that the salience of resource scarcity versus abundance enhances the novelty of product use solutions in independent consumption environments. An investigation of the underlying process finds that scarcity salience activates a constraint mindset which persists and manifests itself through reduced functional fixedness in subsequent product usage contexts (i.e., makes consumers think beyond the traditional functionality of a given product), consequently enhancing product use creativity. This work advances the extant creativity literature, which is currently limited to examining the effects of context-specific resource constraints, by establishing a context-independent linkage between resource availability and product use creativity. Furthermore, this research contributes to the scarcity literature, which has primarily focused on investigating the quantity and frequency of consumption, by examining the impact of scarcity on the quality of consumption solutions.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Creating When You Have Less: The Impact
of Resource Scarcity on Product Use
Creativity
RAVI MEHTA
MENG ZHU
This research examines how a general sense of resource availability influences
consumers’ product use creativity. The authors propose and demonstrate that the
salience of resource scarcity versus abundance enhances the novelty of product
use solutions in independent consumption environments. An investigation of the
underlying process finds that scarcity salience activates a constraint mindset that
persists and manifests itself through reduced functional fixedness in subsequent
product usage contexts (i.e., makes consumers think beyond the traditional func-
tionality of a given product), consequently enhancing product use creativity. This
work advances the extant creativity literature, currently limited to examining the ef-
fects of context-specific resource constraints, by establishing a context-indepen-
dent linkage between resource availability and product use creativity.
Furthermore, this research contributes to the scarcity literature, which has primar-
ily focused on investigating the quantity and frequency of consumption, by exam-
ining the impact of scarcity on the quality of consumption solutions.
Keywords: creativity, innovativeness, product use, scarcity, abundance, resource
constraints
While scarcity has been a pervasive aspect of human
life (Booth 1984), people in modern industrialized
societies take resource availability for granted (Coˆte´ 1993,
1996;Zhu and Ratner 2015). Consumerism and overacqui-
sition have become the order of living and abundance has
emerged as the norm, especially in the first world societies
(Adams, Bruckmuller, and Decker 2012;Coˆte´ 1993,1996;
Riesman 1950). Simultaneously, creativity has become an
important component of the mainstream consumption envi-
ronment, business world, and daily living. Since many
businesses now thrive on consumers’ ability and desire to
be creative (Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema 2012), they offer
consumers various opportunities to engage in creative con-
sumption, such as choosing home decor and fashion
(Burroughs and Mick 2004;Burroughs, Moreau, and Mick
2008), selecting food and leisure (Hirschman 1984), and
self-designing products (Moreau and Herd 2010).
One question that arises is, what is the interplay between
these two defining features of the modern society—re-
source availability and consumer creativity? While existing
literature in consumer creativity has argued that limiting
context-specific resource availability (i.e., constraining the
input resources relevant to the task at hand) leads to higher
creativity within that context (i.e., more creative perfor-
mance on that particular task; Moreau and Dahl 2005,
Sellier and Dahl 2011), it remains to be investigated
whether a general sense of resource availability (e.g.,
Ravi Mehta (mehtar@illinois.edu) is assistant professor of business
administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 350
Wohlers Hall, Champaign, IL, 61820. Meng Zhu (mengzhu@jhu.edu) is
assistant professor of marketing at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business
School, 100 International Dr., Baltimore, MD 21202. The authors would
like to thank Darren Dahl and Haiyang Yang for their constructive com-
ments on the previous versions of this manuscript. The authors also thank
the Journal of Consumer Research reviewer team for their insightful com-
ments and suggestions. Supplemental materials on study procedures and
stimuli have been included as an attachment in the online-only version of
the article. Both authors contributed equally to this work.
Ann McGill and Vicki Morwitz served as editors, and Page Moreau served
as associate editor for this article.
Advance Access publication October 1, 2015
V
CThe Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com Vol. 42 2016
DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucv051
767
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
scarcity vs. abundance) may produce a context-indepen-
dent impact on consumption creativity. This issue holds
significance because consumers are frequently exposed to
contextual cues that may remind them of resource scarcity
or resource abundance in daily lives, and such encounters
can impact their mindset and in turn affect subsequent cre-
ative consumption (Brandsta¨tter and Frank 2002;Briley
and Wyer 2002;Chandran and Morwitz 2005).
In addition, various lines of research suggest a possible
negative correlation between resource availability and crea-
tivity. Yet, to our knowledge, none of the research has di-
rectly examined whether and why a general sense of
scarcity versus abundance may produce a systematic impact
on consumer creativity. For example, the literature on mate-
rialism shows that high levels of material values are nega-
tively associated with individuals’ intellectual and spiritual
development (Belk 1985;Burroughs and Rindfleisch 2002;
Kasser 2003;Richins and Dawson 1992). The literature on
consumption and society argues that creativity is incompati-
ble with the repetitiveness of modern mass production,
which is shifting the culture from one that was intellectually
challenging into one that is harried, familiar, and entertain-
ing (Linder 1970;Schor and Holt 2000). In addition, histo-
rians have suggested a negative relationship between
overconsumption and innovation (Diamond 2005;Tainter
1990). Similarly, the literature on paradoxes of technology
suggests that while innovation and technology provide vari-
ous benefits such as freedom, control, and efficiency, they
could also usurp human motivation and skills, leading to
dependence, ineptitude, and disengagement (Mick and
Fournier 1998). Furthermore, it has been proposed that sub-
sistence consumers living in poverty may engage in innova-
tive behaviors with greater frequency and intensity (Hill
2001;Rosa, Geiger-Oneto, and Fajardo 2012). In spite of
this rich body of knowledge suggesting a negative relation-
ship between resource availability and consumer creativity,
there is little laboratory evidence demonstrating such causal
linkage and the reasoning behind it.
The current research addresses these issues by examining
how scarcity versus abundance might enhance or inhibit
consumer creativity in an independent consumption context.
While examining the role of resource availability, we focus
on the perceived supply level of physical resources that are
required for an individual’s normal growth and maintenance
(Dunst and Leet 1987). We study consumer creativity in the
context of product usage, which is assessed through the nov-
elty (e.g., originality and innovativeness) and appropriate-
ness (e.g., effectiveness and usefulness) dimensions
(Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon 1999;Moreau and
Dahl 2005;Sternberg and Lubart 1999) of everyday product
use solutions adopted by consumers (Hirschman 1980;
Ridgway and Price 1994). A pilot study conducted with 47
MBA students (28 women) at a large East Coast university
confirmed the existence of a negative correlation between
real-life availability of physical resources, which was
measured through the items adopted from the family re-
source scale (a¼.84; Dunst and Leet 1987), and individ-
uals’ creativity in the context of everyday life product usage,
which was measured through the creative reuse subscale
(a¼.87; Price and Ridgway 1983;r¼.38, p¼.009).
We theorize this context-independent impact of resource
scarcity (vs. abundance) on product use creativity by building
on three streams of research that suggest a connection be-
tween scarcity and a cognitive orientation focused on the exis-
tence of constraints (Shah, Mullaninathan, and Shafir 2012), a
context-dependent linkage between constraints and consumer
creativity (Moreau and Dahl 2005;Scopelliti et al., 2014;
Ward 1994), and the carryover effects of mindsets on subse-
quent decision making (Brandsta¨tter and Frank 2002;Briley
and Wyer 2002;Chandran and Morwitz 2005;Xu and Wyer
2007). Specifically, we hypothesize that scarcity salience in a
prior context activates a constraint mindset that persists and
manifests itself through diminished functional fixedness (i.e.,
makes consumers think beyond the traditional functionality of
a given product) in a subsequent and unrelated product usage
context. Such reduction in functional fixedness in turn in-
creases the creativity of the product use solutions. However,
when a general sense of abundance is salient, a constraint
mindsetwillbeabsentandtheconsumerswillbemorelikely
to employ a traditional known product use solution to solve
the active problem. In accordance, we predict that the salience
of scarcity versus abundance will reduce functional fixedness
and hence enhance product use creativity.
This research promises to make several theoretical contri-
butions. First, the current research adds theoretical under-
standing to the consumer creativity literature (Burroughs
andMick2004;Dahl and Moreau 2007;Mehta and Zhu
2009;Moreau and Herd 2010) by demonstrating a context-
independent linkage between resource constraints and con-
sumers’ product use creativity and by providing process evi-
dence (i.e., reduction in functional fixedness) for this
relationship. In doing so, this research also contributes to the
multiple lines of literature that have alluded to a negative re-
lationship between abundance and creative cognition. We
provide direct empirical evidence demonstrating that a gen-
eral sense of scarcity versus abundance increases consumer
creativity and the reasoning behind it. This research also
adds to the existing scarcity literature (Laran and Salerno
2013;Roux, Goldsmith, and Bonezzi 2015;Sevilla and
Redden 2014;Shah et al. 2012;Zhu and Ratner 2015)by
shifting attention away from investigating the quantity and
frequency of consumption (e.g., the number of products sup-
plied, acquired, or used), to exploring the impact of scarcity
on consumption quality (e.g., the novelty and appropriate-
ness of product use solutions). Finally, the results from this
research deliver important practical implications in terms of
creative product design, usage, and disposal.
The remainder of the article is organized as follows: We
first review the relevant literature on scarcity, creativity,
and mindsets to generate predictions about why scarcity
768 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
salience may enhance product use creativity. The first two
experiments then demonstrate the proposed main effect,
followed by four process studies that show the mediating
role of functional fixedness and the moderating role of an
experimentally induced focus on traditional versus nontra-
ditional product functionality. We conclude with the theo-
retical and practical implications of our findings.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
Product Use Creativity
Creativity has been defined as the generation of ideas, in-
sights, or solutions that are both novel and useful in solving
the problem at hand (Amabile 1983;Sternberg and Lubart
1999). When this problem-solving capability is applied to-
ward addressing consumption-related problems, it is referred
to as consumer creativity (Hirschman 1980). While extant
consumer creativity research has primarily focused on con-
sumers’ creative performance (Mehta and Zhu 2009), creative
process (Dahl and Moreau 2007), product adoption (Mehta
et al. 2012), and product design and customization (Moreau
and Herd 2010), consumer creativity can also manifest itself
in the context of product usage (Burroughs and Mick 2004).
When faced with a novel consumption problem, con-
sumers could either adopt a new product or use an existing
product in a new but an effective or useful way to solve the
problem at hand. For example, to remove carpet stains, one
could either buy a carpet cleaning detergent or use baking
soda and vinegar available at home. Likewise, to get rid of
the bacteria-induced odor of one’s shoes, one could either
buy a shoe odor eliminator or use a dryer sheet available at
home. We refer to the latter type of behaviors as product
use creativity, which is the focal construct in our research.
Specifically, we define product use creativity as using a
previously adopted product to solve consumption problems
in a novel (e.g., original and innovative) and appropriate
(e.g., effective and practical) manner.
Our definition of product use creativity is in line with
previous research on usage innovativeness that has studied
consumers’ receptivity to using existing products in new
ways to solve a consumption problem (Hirschman 1980;
Ridgway and Price 1994). We extend this body of knowl-
edge that has primarily focused on novelty (e.g., originality
and innovativeness) of product usage, by also taking into
account the appropriateness (e.g., effectiveness and useful-
ness) of such usage. Our conceptualization of product use
creativity is consistent with existing research noting that
both novelty and appropriateness are essential when assess-
ing creativity (Goldenberg et al. 1999;Moreau and Dahl
2005;Sternberg and Lubart 1999).
Scarcity and Constraint Mindset
As a pervasive aspect of human life (Booth 1984), a fun-
damental concept in economics (Brock 1968), and one of
the most influential principles of persuasion in society
(Cialdini 2009), scarcity has attracted attention from vari-
ous disciplines and has been examined for its broad impli-
cations on lifestyle and consumption patterns. For
example, a part of the research on scarcity has investigated
a variety of sociological, political, economic, and personal
characteristics of resource-constrained people, such as their
living conditions (Hill 2001;Ludwig, Duncan, and
Hirschfield 2001;Rosa et al. 2012), health (Johnson,
Mermin, and Murphy 2007), education (Bernheim, Garrett,
and Maki 2001), and social capital (Cleaver 2005).
Another part of the research on scarcity, and more rele-
vant to the current work, has examined how scarcity shapes
consumers’ cognitive orientation and decision making
(Chaturvedi, Chiu, and Viswanathan 2009;Shah et al.
2012). In particular, this research shows that scarcity affects
consumer behavior within a given consumption context by
activating a cognitive orientation focused on the constraints.
For example, Folkes, Martin, and Gupta (1993) find that
scarce versus abundant supply quantity of a product led con-
sumers to focus on this constraint (i.e., diminished supply),
which consequently decreased the usage amount of the prod-
uct. Along a similar line of reasoning, Shah et al. (2012)
show that participants assigned a scarce versus abundant
budget in a multiple-round game were engaged in address-
ing the demands of each current round, that is, focusing on
the constraints while failing to consider what would come in
the future rounds (i.e., neglecting problems unrelated to the
presented constraints), which resulted in excessive borrow-
ing. To summarize, this stream of research has provided
converging evidence that scarcity produces a context-depen-
dent effect on consumption behaviors by inducing a cogni-
tive orientation that is focused on the constraints.
Furthermore, the literature on mindsets has shown that
the cognitive orientation activated by contextual cues or
task engagement in a specific context can persist as a gen-
eralized mindset, in turn affecting judgment and decision
making in subsequent, unrelated contexts (Brandsta¨tter and
Frank 2002;Briley and Wyer 2002;Chandran and
Morwitz 2005). This context-independent linkage between
mindset and behavior occurs because the activated mindset
defines the general way through which individuals attend
to and process information (Xu and Wyer 2007). For exam-
ple, Luchins and his colleagues (Luchins 1942;Luchins
and Luchins 1959) demonstrate that once participants com-
prehend a complex rule for solving an initial series of prob-
lems, they persist in applying this rule to later problems,
even when the problems could be solved in a simpler man-
ner. Similarly, Xu and Wyer (2007) find that asking partic-
ipants to state their preference for choice alternatives in
one product domain activates a “which-to-buy” mindset,
which consequently increases their likelihood of making a
purchase in unrelated product domains.
Based on the distinct streams of research just cited, we
expect that the salience of resource scarcity will activate a
MEHTA AND ZHU 769
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
constraint mindset (i.e., a general cognitive orientation fo-
cused on the existence of constraints), which can persist
and affect consumer decision making in a subsequent, in-
dependent consumption context.
Constraint Mindset and Product Use Creativity
Previous research has shown that inducing context-
specific constraints in the creative process leads to novel
and original ways of solving problems, resulting in higher
creativity of the generated solutions within the constrained
local environment (Stokes 2001). For example, Burroughs
and Mick (2004) demonstrate that constraining the time
available to complete a given task leads to more creative
consumer solutions for that particular task. Likewise,
Otnes, Kacen, and Lowrey (2001) document that task-rele-
vant external constraints such as budgets increase creativ-
ity in Christmas gift giving. A similar effect of constraints
has also been demonstrated in the domain of consumer-
driven product design processes. For example, Sellier and
Dahl (2011) find that constraining the availability of task-
specific inputs in the creative process (e.g., reducing the
number of yarn options offered to consumers for a knitting
project) leads to more innovative design outputs in the cor-
responding domain (e.g., scarf designs). Similarly, Finke
and his colleagues show that restricting the set of parts
(e.g., hook, sphere, and ring) or an inventive category (e.g.,
furniture, appliances, or toys) during an inventive process
leads to more innovative creations (Finke 1990;Finke,
Ward, and Smith 1992).
Importantly, Moreau and Dahl (2005) suggest that task-
specific constraints enhance consumer creativity because
the presence of constraints leads people to stray from tradi-
tionally established means and solutions, that is, the path
of least resistance (POLR). While by default, people tend
to follow the POLR as it is much easier and cognitively ef-
ficient to retrieve and implement known and established
solutions (Ward 1998). These established and previously
successful solutions tend to be predictable, repetitive, and
neither surprising nor novel (Stokes 2001). Yet when the
constraints are induced in a task environment, previously
established conditions often no longer hold in the con-
strained environment (Moreau and Dahl 2005). Task-rele-
vant constraints thereby often force individuals to move
away from the POLR, consequently leading to more crea-
tive task solutions. Consistent with this line of thinking,
Finke et al. (1992) reason that the positive impact of task-
specific restrictions on inventive processes arises because
these restrictions discourage conventional thinking (Finke
1990;Finke et al. 1992). In the context of product usage,
the POLR manifests itself in the form of functional fixed-
ness, which is a cognitive bias that limits a person to using
an object only in the way it is traditionally used (Duncker
1945). For example, if someone needs a paperweight but
only has a hammer, he or she may not see how the hammer
can be used as a paperweight. This fixation on a hammer’s
traditional functionality (i.e., following the POLR in its us-
age) indicates a high level of functional fixedness, which
often results in low product use creativity.
Together, these findings on the context-dependent link-
age between constraints and creativity, along with the re-
search proposing the possible connection between scarcity
and a generalized constraint mindset, suggest that a general
sense of scarcity might produce a context-independent im-
pact on product use creativity, which, as explicated in the
earlier section, is assessed through two dimensions: its
novelty (e.g., originality and innovativeness) and its appro-
priateness (e.g., effectiveness and usefulness) (Moreau and
Dahl 2005;Sternberg and Lubart 1999). More specifically,
we propose that the constraint mindset activated by the sa-
lience of scarcity in a prior context will persist and mani-
fest itself through decreased functional fixedness in the
subsequent product usage contexts (i.e., will make individ-
uals move beyond the traditional uses and functionality of
a given product). This reduction in functional fixedness
consequently will make people approach product use solu-
tions from different perspectives and in unusual ways,
therefore increasing the novelty of the product use solu-
tions. However, when a general sense of abundance is sa-
lient, a constraint mindset will not be activated. In this
case, individuals will follow the default POLR and be less
likely to move away from the traditional functionality of a
product, thereby resulting in lower novelty of the product
use solutions.
Further, it may appear that moving away from a prod-
uct’s functional fixedness that leads to higher novelty may
also lead to fanciful product use solutions that have little
relevance to the customer and are neither effective nor use-
ful (i.e., are lower in appropriateness; Moreau and Dahl
2005). However, we argue that because the setting of our
inquiry entails a constraint mindset that arises out of a gen-
eral sense of scarcity, the appropriateness or effectiveness
of the product use solutions should be of prime importance.
Hence, although scarcity salience will enhance novelty, we
do not expect any decrease in the appropriateness of the
product use solutions. In line with our reasoning, previous
literature examining the effects of poverty on consumer be-
havior argues that although the subsistence market places
demonstrate high innovativeness, such innovations are safe
and productive as subsistence consumers strive to achieve
a desired outcome that appropriately solves the problem at
hand (Rosa et al. 2012). Additionally, previous research
examining the effect of task-relevant constraints on con-
sumer creativity has also observed that task-relevant con-
straints can enhance novelty without compromising on the
appropriateness. For example, Moreau and Dahl (2005) ob-
served a nonsignificant impact of constraints on appropri-
ateness of the generated solutions. In a similar vein, Sellier
and Dahl (2011) observed a nonsignificant effect of choice
constraint on appropriateness when examining the joint
770 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
effect of expertise and choice constraint as well as cogni-
tive busyness and choice constraint on design outcome.
To summarize, we hypothesize that scarcity salience
will increase product use creativity by enhancing the nov-
elty of product use solutions without compromising on the
appropriateness of the solutions. We explain that this oc-
curs because scarcity salience activates a constraint mind-
set that persists and manifests itself through reduced
functional fixedness in subsequent product usage contexts
(i.e., makes consumers think beyond the traditional func-
tionality of a given product).
We test our hypotheses in six experiments. Experiments
1 and 2 demonstrate that the salience of scarcity versus
abundance enhances the novelty, without compromising
the appropriateness, of the product use solutions in the con-
texts of both divergent and convergent thinking.
Experiments 3 and 4 provide direct support for the pro-
posed mechanism by showing that functional fixedness
mediates the relationship between resource availability and
product use creativity. The final two studies provide further
process evidence by demonstrating that the context-inde-
pendent effect of scarcity salience on product use creativity
is moderated when consumers are primed with a general
sense of nontraditional product functionality (experiment
5) or explicitly fixated on the traditional functionality of a
product (experiment 6).
EXPERIMENT 1
Experiment 1 was conducted with an aim to test our
main thesis that a general sense of resource scarcity en-
hances product use creativity. Resource availability was
manipulated at three levels (i.e., scarcity, abundance, and
control) through a writing task adapted from Vohs, Mead,
and Goode (2006). Product use creativity was captured
through a toy-building task that was adapted and modified
from Moreau and Dahl (2005) to suit the setting of our
study and was assessed through both novelty and appropri-
ateness dimensions. We expected that scarcity salience
would enhance the novelty without compromising the ap-
propriateness of the toys built.
Method
A total of 95 undergraduate students (52 women) at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign participated in
this experiment in exchange for extra course credit. The
experiment was run in small groups of no more than four
people per session. Upon arrival, participants were ran-
domly assigned to one of three resource availability condi-
tions (i.e., scarcity, abundance, or control). The
participants assigned to the scarcity and abundance condi-
tions first completed a writing task on computers.
Specifically, the participants in the treatment conditions
were asked to take three minutes and write an essay about
either growing up having scarce resources (scarcity condi-
tion) or growing up having abundant resources (abundant
condition). After completing the writing task, the partici-
pants completed an ostensibly unrelated toy-building task
under the guise of a “new products study” (Moreau and
Dahl 2005). The participants in the control condition pro-
ceeded directly to the toy-building task. For this “new
products study,” all participants were provided with the
same number and type of “Krinkles” building blocks and
asked to use these pieces to build a creative prototype of a
toy that a typical child between the ages of five and seven
years can play with (Moreau and Dahl 2005). Once partici-
pants finished building their toys, they answered demo-
graphic questions and were then debriefed and dismissed.
Results and Discussion
Novelty. We first assessed the 95 toy prototypes cre-
ated by our participants on the novelty dimension. To do so
we hired 15 judges from the same population as our study
participants and asked them to rate each toy built on three
items: innovativeness, novelty, and originality (Moreau
and Dahl 2005) using a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all;
7¼Very much). Next, we averaged each of the 15 judges’
ratings on these three items (i.e., innovativeness, novelty,
and originality) to obtain 15 novelty scores for each proto-
type built. These 15 scores were then averaged to obtain an
overall novelty score for each toy prototype (a¼.92). A
one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) returned a signifi-
cant main effect of resource availability on the novelty of
the toy prototypes created by the participants using the
Krinkles pieces (F(2, 92) ¼3.88, p¼.024). The toy
prototypes created by the participants in the scarcity condi-
tion (M¼3.72, standard deviation [SD] ¼1.15) were
judged to be more novel as compared to those created by
the participants in either abundance (M¼3.04, SD ¼.94;
t(92) ¼2.66, p¼.009, Cohen’s d¼.65) or the control con-
dition (M¼3.17, SD ¼1.01; t(92) ¼2.09, p¼.039,
Cohen’s d¼.51). No difference was observed in the
judged novelty of the toy prototypes created under the
abundance versus the control condition (t<1).
Appropriateness. To assess appropriateness of the toy
prototypes, we hired a second set of 15 judges and asked
them to rate each toy built on the three items capturing the
appropriateness dimension of creativity—effectiveness,
practicality, and usefulness (Moreau and Dahl 2005)—
using a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all; 7 ¼Very much).
Following the same procedure as for novelty, we calculated
an overall appropriateness score (a¼.92) for each proto-
type. A one-way ANOVA conducted for this overall appro-
priateness score yielded nonsignificant results (F<1),
such that no difference was observed in the appropriateness
of the toy prototypes generated across scarcity (M¼4.25,
MEHTA AND ZHU 771
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
SD ¼1.02), abundance (M¼4.25, SD ¼.76), and control
(M¼4.39, SD ¼.80) conditions (all t’s <1).
Discussion. Together, the results from this study pro-
vide direct empirical support that a general sense of scar-
city versus abundance leads to more novel product use
solutions without compromising their appropriateness.
These results thus advance prior creativity literature by
providing initial controlled laboratory evidence for a con-
text-independent linkage between task-irrelevant con-
straints (i.e., a general sense of scarcity) and creativity in
the context of product usage. Further supporting our hy-
pothesis, we did not find any difference in novelty of the
toy prototypes between the abundance and control condi-
tions, thereby indicating that scarcity indeed enhances nov-
elty of product use solutions. Also, as hypothesized and
consistent with prior creativity literature (Moreau and Dahl
2005;Sellier and Dahl 2011), we did not find any differ-
ence in appropriateness of the product use solutions across
the three resource availability conditions.
EXPERIMENT 2
Experiment 2 extended the findings of experiment 1 in
two ways. First, whereas experiment 1 employed a product
usage context that was divergent in nature (the participants
could use the provided Krinkles pieces to create many dif-
ferent toy prototypes), experiment 2 tested our focal hy-
pothesis in a convergent thinking context (the problem at
hand has a single correct solution). Second, this experiment
provided initial support for the proposed underlying pro-
cess based on functional fixedness. As in experiment 1, re-
source availability was again manipulated at three levels
(i.e., scarcity, abundance, and control). To capture product
use creativity, we used a convergent thinking task that re-
quires one to use a set of given products beyond their tradi-
tional functionality so as to solve the given task creatively
(Duncker 1945). We expected that the participants who en-
countered scarcity salience in a prior unrelated context
would be more likely to use the provided products in novel
but appropriate ways to solve the given task.
Method
A total of 153 American adults (92 women) completed
an online study in exchange for $0.90 and were randomly
assigned to one of the three resource availability conditions
(i.e., scarcity, abundance, and control). As in experiment 1,
the participants assigned to the scarcity and abundance
conditions began the study by completing a writing task in
which they were asked to take three minutes and write an
essay about growing up having scarce or abundant re-
sources, respectively. The participants in the control condi-
tion proceeded to the second task directly.
Next, all participants were presented with the candle
task developed by Duncker (1945). Specifically, the partic-
ipants were shown a picture containing several products on
a table: a candle, a pack of matches, and a box of tacks, all
of which were next to a wall. Participants’ task was to fig-
ure out how to attach the candle to the wall by using only
the objects on the table, so that the candle burns properly
and does not drip wax on the table or the floor. The correct
solution consists of emptying the box of tacks, tacking it to
the wall, and placing the candle inside, so that the box of
tacks is used as a candleholder. Notably, in this task, find-
ing the correct solution requires a person to use the box of
tacks in a novel fashion by overcoming functional fixed-
ness, that is, recognizing a use beyond its typical function-
ality (Duncker 1945;Glucksberg and Weisberg 1966).
After writing down the solution to this task, the participants
answered demographic questions and were debriefed.
Results and Discussion
Creativity. Of the 153 participants who completed the
study, 20 people indicated having knowledge about the
candle task and its solution beforehand. The data from
these participants were not included in further analysis (in-
cluding these data in the analysis did not substantively
change the observed pattern). The remaining 133 responses
were coded as correct or incorrect in line with previous lit-
erature; for a solution to be considered correct, responses
had to include the use of the box of tacks as a candleholder
(Maddux and Galinsky 2009). Overall, 35 of the 133 par-
ticipants (i.e., 26.3%) correctly solved the problem. A chi-
square test revealed a significant main effect of resource
availability on the correctness of the solutions (v
2
(2,
N¼133) ¼10.69, p¼.005, Cohen’s d¼.59). Further, we
conducted binary logistic regression analysis to assess the
differences between the conditions. The results showed
that a higher percentage of participants in the scarcity con-
dition (M¼44.2%) correctly solved the candle problem as
compared to those in the abundance (M¼15.6%, B¼1.46,
standard error [SE] ¼.51, Wald ¼8.07, p¼.005) and con-
trol (M¼20.0%, B¼1.15, SE ¼.48, Wald ¼5.70,
p¼.017) conditions. No difference was observed between
the abundance and control conditions (B¼.31, SE ¼.56,
Wald ¼.30, not significant).
Discussion. Results from this experiment demonstrate
that the effect of scarcity salience on product use creativity
holds in product usage contexts that require convergent
thinking, thus displaying generalizability of our findings.
Replicating the findings from experiment 1, we did not ob-
serve any difference between the abundance and the con-
trol condition, suggesting that scarcity salience, rather than
abundance, drives the observed effects. Further, these re-
sults provide initial evidence for our proposed underlying
mechanism. We find that participants for whom scarcity
772 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
was made salient used the available products more crea-
tively by behaving in a less functionally fixed manner:
thinking beyond products’ typical functionality (e.g., using
the box of tacks as a candle stand). The next two studies di-
rectly examine the role of functional fixedness as the un-
derlying mechanism (i.e., a mediator) that drives the effect
of resource availability on product use creativity. While
experiment 3 measures functional fixedness through the as-
sessments made by an independent group of judges, experi-
ment 4 utilizes self-reported ratings provided by the
participants who generated the product use solutions.
EXPERIMENT 3
The main objective of experiment 3 was to provide di-
rect evidence for the proposed mediating role of functional
fixedness in the relationship between resource availability
and product use creativity. As in previous experiments, the
writing task adapted from Vohs et al. (2006) was employed
to manipulate a general sense of scarcity versus abundance.
Product use creativity and functional fixedness were mea-
sured through a subsequent task in which participants were
asked to generate as many creative uses as they could for
an everyday use product (Guilford 1959;Mehta et al.
2012).
Method
A total of 56 undergraduate students (34 women) at
Carnegie Mellon University completed this study in ex-
change for extra course credit. Participants were randomly
assigned to either the scarcity or abundance condition and
first completed the writing task as in previous experiments.
After participants had completed the writing task, they
were presented with an ostensibly unrelated usage task, in
which the participants were asked to generate as many cre-
ative uses for a brick as they could think of, but to refrain
from listing both the typical uses and the uses that are vir-
tually impossible. Following Mehta et al. (2012), partici-
pants were given two minutes to generate their list. The
study ended with participants answering the demographic
questions and being debriefed.
Results and Discussion
A total of 349 uses of a brick were generated by all par-
ticipants. No difference was observed in the number of
uses generated under the two resource availability condi-
tions (M
scarcity
¼6.31, SD ¼2.36 vs. M
abundance
¼6.17,
SD ¼2.67; F<1).
Novelty. To assess novelty of these uses, we invited 15
independent judges from the same population as the partic-
ipants in the main experiment and asked them to rate each
of the 349 brick uses on three items—innovativeness, nov-
elty, and originality—on a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all;
7¼Very much). Thirteen judges returned the completed
rating tasks. These ratings were then used to calculate an
overall novelty score for each participant. To do so, (1) we
averaged the three ratings (i.e., innovativeness, novelty,
and originality) for each judge, to obtain 13 novelty judge
scores for each of the 349 uses of brick; (2) these 13 judge
scores were averaged to obtain mean novelty score for
each brick use (a¼.86); (3) finally, we calculated an over-
all novelty score for each participant by averaging the
mean novelty scores for all of the uses generated by that
particular participant. A one-way ANOVA revealed a sig-
nificant main effect of resource availability on the overall
novelty score (F(1, 54) ¼6.37, p¼.015, Cohen’s d¼.68)
such that the brick uses generated by the participants in the
scarcity condition (M¼2.73, SD ¼.41) were judged to be
more novel than the uses generated by individuals in the
abundance condition (M¼2.42, SD ¼.49).
Appropriateness. To assess the appropriateness of the
brick uses, we invited another set of 15 judges from the
same population as our study participants and asked them
to rate each idea in terms of effectiveness, practicality, and
usefulness on a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all; 7 ¼Very
much). All 15 judges returned the completed ratings. These
ratings were then used to calculate an overall appropriate-
ness score (a¼.62) for each participant following the
same procedure as used to calculate the novelty score. A
one-way ANOVA showed a nonsignificant difference be-
tween the appropriateness of the uses generated under scar-
city (M¼4.65, SD ¼.26) versus abundance condition
(M¼4.74, SD ¼.29; (F(1, 54) ¼1.37, p>.2).
Functional Fixedness. Finally, we examined the im-
pact of scarcity versus abundance on functional fixedness.
Functional fixedness has been defined as a cognitive bias
that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is
traditionally used (Duncker 1945). Accordingly, we mea-
sured the degree of functional fixedness exhibited in the
generated brick use solutions by assessing to what extent
the uses generated by each participant were different from
the traditional function of a brick. Specifically, we hired 12
independent coders from the same population as our study
participants and asked them to rate each of the 349 brick
uses in terms of how different each was from a traditional
function of a brick on a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all differ-
ent from the traditional function of a brick; 7 ¼Very differ-
ent from the traditional function of a brick). These ratings
(a¼.91) were then used to calculate an overall functional
fixedness score for each participant, as with novelty and
appropriateness, such that a higher score on this scale indi-
cates lower functional fixedness (i.e., the use being very
different from the traditional function of a brick). As ex-
pected, a one-way ANOVA revealed a significant main ef-
fect of resource availability on functional fixedness score;
the participants in the scarcity condition displayed lower
functional fixedness (M¼3.26, SD ¼.52) as compared to
MEHTA AND ZHU 773
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
those in the abundance condition (M¼2.80, SD ¼.79;
(F(1, 54) ¼6.48, p¼.014, Cohen’s d¼.69). Finally, we
ran a mediation analysis to examine the indirect effect of
resource availability on the novelty of the generated brick
uses through functional fixedness (Hayes 2013). A bias-
corrected bootstrap confidence interval obtained by resam-
pling the data 5000 times did not include zero and there-
fore indicated presence of a significant indirect (i.e.,
mediation) effect (b¼.27, SE ¼.11, bias-corrected 95%
confidence interval [CI], .07–51).
Discussion. The results from this experiment provide
further support for our focal hypothesis and the proposed
underlying mechanism. We find that in a product usage
context a general sense of scarcity makes people behave in
a less functionally fixed manner, that is, think beyond the
obvious or more traditional ways of using a given product,
which in turn enhances novelty of the generated product
use solutions. Consistent with the results from experiment
1, we found no significant differences in the appropriate-
ness of the brick uses generated under the scarcity versus
abundance condition. These findings are in line with previ-
ous research showing that deviating from a path of tradi-
tional solutions, as induced by presence of constraints, does
not necessarily improve or detract from the appropriateness
of the task solution (Moreau and Dahl 2005). Notably, we
also did not observe any difference in the number of uses
generated by participants under the two resource availabil-
ity conditions. These results suggest that in our setting,
scarcity salience increased the novelty of the generated uses
without affecting fluency (i.e., the number of uses gener-
ated). This result is consistent with the findings from exist-
ing creativity research showing that an independent
variable may produce a significant main effect on the nov-
elty dimension of creativity without significantly impacting
the fluency dimension. For example, Mehta et al. (2012)
found that while noise level affected the novelty of the solu-
tions generated in a creative task, it did not influence the
fluency with which the solutions are generated.
In this experiment, although we used different scales and
different sets of judges, we relied on the same set of brick
use solutions generated by our participants to assess both
functional fixedness and product use creativity. In the next
study, we measure functional fixedness by directly asking
participants to recall the extent to which they tried to think
beyond traditional functionality and common uses. This
self-reported measure allows us to access the proposed me-
diating role of functional fixedness using the materials that
are different from those used to access product use
creativity.
EXPERIMENT 4
Experiment 4 replicated and extended the findings from
experiment 3 in two ways. First, while the focal task in
experiment 3 involved simply generating uses for a given
everyday use product, in experiment 4, we utilized a real-
life problem in which participants could decide on how to
use a given product to solve the focal problem—either to
harness its traditional usability or use this existing product
in a creative way. Second, in experiment 3, we measured
functional fixedness using the same brick uses that were
used to assess product use creativity, and to do so we relied
on the ratings of independent sets of judges. In experiment
4, we measured functional fixedness by directly asking par-
ticipants to report the extent to which they tried to think be-
yond traditional functionality and common uses while
trying to come up with new product use solutions.
Method
A total of 60 undergraduate students (24 women) at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign completed this
study in exchange for extra credit. As in previous experi-
ments, the participants were randomly assigned to either
the scarcity or abundance condition and completed the ma-
nipulation writing task (two participants who failed to
complete the writing task as instructed were not included
in the analysis). Next, they were presented with a real prob-
lem faced by the school and asked to suggest a solution.
Specifically, the participants were told that during the sum-
mer the computer labs were relocated by a moving com-
pany and all equipment came packed in bubble wrap
sheets. (Note that the school’s computer labs were indeed
moved to a new location at the university where this study
was run during that summer break. The students in the sub-
ject pool regularly use these computer labs and hence were
aware of this move.) Participants were further informed
that as per the contract the packaging material was univer-
sity property and that the school now had about 250 bubble
wrap sheets left behind by the moving company.
Participants were asked to come up with an idea/solution
for what the school should do with these bubble wrap
sheets. To assure that all participants had the same idea
about what the product looked like, five bubble wrap sheets
were placed in the middle of the behavioral lab during all
experimental sessions.
Once participants finished writing their ideas, they were
asked to respond to the five items that were designed to
capture the construct of functional fixedness, each on a 7
point scale (1 ¼Not at all, 7 ¼Very much; higher scores
on the scale indicated lower functional fixedness). In par-
ticular, the participants were asked to indicate, “While
thinking about your proposed solution to the bubble wrap
problem faced by the school, to what extent did you (1) try
to think beyond the traditional functionality of the bubble
wrap, (2) consider the features of bubble wrap that are ir-
relevant to its common use, (3) consider the potential ways
of using bubble wrap that are not relevant to its common
use, (4) work to come up with an uncommon use for
774 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
bubble wrap, and (5) enjoy thinking of ways to use a bub-
ble wrap that were beyond its ordinary use.” Finally, all
participants answered the demographic questions and were
debriefed.
Results and Discussion
Novelty. To assess the novelty of the generated solu-
tions, we hired 20 judges from an online panel in exchange
for $2.50 each and asked them to rate each solution on
three items—innovativeness, novelty, and originality—
using a 7 point scale. Three judges failed instructional ma-
nipulation checks (Oppenheimer, Meyvis, and Davidenko
2009) and their ratings were not included in the analysis.
Following the procedure used in experiment 1, these 17
judges’ ratings were then used to calculate an overall prod-
uct use novelty score for each participant (a¼.99).
Replicating the results from previous experiments, a one-
way ANOVA revealed a significant main effect, such that
the solutions generated for bubble wrap usage by the par-
ticipants in the scarcity condition (M¼3.52, SD ¼.95)
were judged to be more novel than the uses generated by
individuals in the abundance condition (M¼2.98,
SD ¼.85; F(1, 56) ¼5.06, p¼.028, Cohen’s d¼.60).
Appropriateness. Next, to assess appropriateness of the
solutions, we hired another set of 20 judges from an online
panel and asked them to rate each solution on three items
capturing the appropriateness dimension—effectiveness,
practicality, and usefulness—using a 7 point scale. One
judge failed the instructional manipulation check, and this
judge’s ratings were not used in the analysis. An overall
appropriateness score was then created (a¼.99) following
the same procedure as in previous experiments. Supporting
results observed in the previous studies, a one-way
ANOVA revealed a nonsignificant effect of resource avail-
ability on the appropriateness (M
scarcity
¼4.73, SD ¼1.27;
M
abundance
¼4.78, SD ¼1.02; F<1).
Functional Fixedness. We averaged participants’ self-
reported scores on the five functional fixedness items to
create a functional fixedness index (a¼.86), such that
higher scores on this index indicated lower functional
fixedness. A one-way ANOVA returned a significant main
effect of resource availability on functional fixedness, such
that the participants in the scarcity condition demonstrated
significantly lower functional fixedness (i.e., higher scores,
M¼3.90, SD ¼1.36) as compared to the participants in
the abundance condition (M¼3.07, SD ¼1.40; F(1,
56) ¼5.31, p¼.025, Cohen’s d¼.60). To examine the
role of functional fixedness in the relationship between re-
source availability and novelty of product use solutions, a
mediation analysis was conducted using a bootstrap ap-
proach (Hayes 2013). A 5000 resamples bootstrap pro-
duced a 95% bias-corrected bootstrap CI that did not
include zero, indicating a significant indirect (i.e.,
mediation) effect of functional fixedness on the resource
availability and product use novelty relationship (b¼.24,
SE ¼.12, bias-corrected 95% CI, .044–.527). Further, to
test whether this mediation pattern replicates when func-
tional fixedness is measured through the same procedure as
used in experiment 3, we invited 15 judges from our sub-
ject pool population and asked them to rate each of the
bubble wrap use solutions on how different they thought
each idea was from a traditional function of bubble wrap.
Twelve judges returned the completed ratings, which were
then used to calculate an overall functional fixedness score
for each participant (a¼.96). A one-way ANOVA
(M
scarcity
¼3.65, SD ¼1.63; M
abundance
¼2.87, SD ¼1.31;
F(1, 56) ¼3.86, p¼.054, Cohen’s d¼.53) and the media-
tion analysis (b¼.38, SE ¼.20, bias-corrected 95% CI,
.02–81) replicated the results observed for the self-reported
measure of functional fixedness.
Discussion. Together, the results from experiments 3
and 4 provide converging evidence for our theorizing that
scarcity salience lowers functional fixedness and conse-
quently leads to higher novelty of product use solutions
without compromising the appropriateness of the product
use solutions. In the next two experiments, we provide fur-
ther process evidence by examining whether the effect of
scarcity versus abundance on product use creativity is
moderated when consumers are either primed with a gen-
eral sense of nontraditional product functionality (experi-
ment 5) or explicitly fixated on the traditional functionality
of a product (experiment 6).
EXPERIMENT 5
According to our hypotheses and the results observed so
far, we found that the impact of scarcity salience enhances
product use creativity because of the reduction in func-
tional fixedness. Thus if individuals are made to think in a
less functionally fixed manner (such as by activating a gen-
eral tendency to think about nontraditional product uses),
they should exhibit increased product use creativity, irre-
spective of the resource availability. Experiment 5 tested
this argument and employed a 2 (Resource Availability:
Scarcity vs. Abundance) 2 (Nontraditional Functionality
Mindset: Primed vs. Control) between-subjects design. The
writing task and the bubble wrap task as used in experi-
ment 4 were utilized to manipulate resource availability
and to assess product use creativity, respectively. To in-
duce a nontraditional functionality mindset, we presented
half of the participants with five everyday products and
highlighted their nontraditional uses before presenting
them with the bubble wrap task (primed condition). The
other half of the participants were presented with the same
set of products but were not given any mention of their
nontraditional uses (control condition). In this experiment,
we also assessed participants’ current mood to examine if
MEHTA AND ZHU 775
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
mood played a role in the relationship between the resource
availability and product use creativity.
Method
A total of 84 undergraduate students (45 women) at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign completed this
study in exchange for extra credit and were randomly as-
signed to one of the four experimental conditions. As in
previous studies, participants first wrote an essay either on
growing up with scarce or abundant resources (five partici-
pants failed to complete the writing task as instructed and
were not included in the analysis). Once they completed
the writing task, the participants in the nontraditional func-
tionality mindset primed condition were presented with
five everyday consumer products, one at a time, each ac-
companied by a nontraditional function for that particular
product (e.g., toothpaste: It can be used to clean car head-
lights; aluminum foil: It can be used as an effective dryer
sheet). The participants were asked to indicate how differ-
ent they thought the mentioned use was from the traditional
use of that particular product on a 7 point scale anchored
on “Not at all–Very much.” Participants in the control con-
dition were presented with the same set of products but
without any mention of the nontraditional function and
were asked to rate how long it might take them to decide
whether or not to purchase each of the presented product
on a 7 point scale anchored on “Very little time–Very long
time.” Next, all participants were asked to solve the same
bubble wrap problem as used in experiment 4. Then, par-
ticipants responded to the seven positive and eight negative
mood items adapted from Zevon and Tellegen (1982) by
indicating how they felt about these items on a 7 point
scale (1 ¼Not at all, 7 ¼Very much). The experiment con-
cluded with some demographic questions.
Results and Discussion
Novelty. To assess the novelty of the solutions gener-
ated by our participants in response to the bubble wrap
problem, we hired 20 judges from an online panel and
asked them to rate each solution on three items—innova-
tiveness, novelty, and originality—on a 7 point scale
(1 ¼Not at all, 7 ¼Very much). Eighteen judges returned
the completed ratings. Following the same procedure as in
previous studies, we used these ratings to calculate an over-
all novelty score (a¼.98) for each participant. A 2
(Resource Availability: Scarcity vs. Abundance) 2
(Nontraditional Functionality Mindset: Primed vs. Control)
ANOVA revealed a significant interaction (F(1,
75) ¼4.42, p¼.039; g
2
¼.06; see Figure 1). Replicating
the results from previous studies, in the control condition,
the solutions generated when resource scarcity versus
abundance was salient were rated as more novel
(M
scarcity
¼3.58, SD ¼.97; M
abundance
¼2.88, SD ¼.76;
t(75) ¼2.34, p¼.022, Cohen’s d¼.80). However, when a
nontraditional functionality mindset was primed, no differ-
ence was observed between the scarcity (M¼3.36,
SD ¼.97) and abundance conditions (M¼3.56, SD ¼1.05;
t<1). Further, contrast analysis confirmed that participants
in the abundance condition generated the solutions that
were rated higher on novelty when the nontraditional func-
tionality mindset was primed versus not primed
(t(75) ¼2.18, p¼.032, Cohen’s d¼.74). The nontradi-
tional functionality manipulation (primed vs. control) did
not produce a significant impact on the novelty of solutions
generated for participants in the scarcity conditions (t<1).
Appropriateness. To assess the appropriateness of the
generated solutions, we hired another set of 15 judges and
asked them to rate the solutions on the three appropriate-
ness items—effectiveness, practicality, and usefulness—on
a 7 point scale. These ratings were then used to calculate
an overall appropriateness score (a¼.99). A two-way
ANOVA yielded no significant main effects or interaction
between resource availability and traditional functionality
mindset (M
scarcity nontraditional functionality
¼4.21, SD ¼1.00;
M
abundance nontraditional functionality
¼4.44, SD ¼1.14; M
scarcity
control
¼4.48, SD ¼1.02; and M
abundance control
¼4.96,
SD ¼.79; all F’s <1).
Discussion. The observed results support our predic-
tion that enhanced product use novelty caused by scarcity
salience will be moderated when consumers are experi-
mentally primed to think beyond a product’s traditional
functionality, providing further evidence for functional
fixedness as the underlying mechanism driving the ob-
served effect. Also, analysis of participants’ current mood
FIGURE 1
NOVELTY OF THE GENERATED PRODUCT USE SOLUTIONS
FOR BUBBLE WRAP (EXPERIMENT 5)
776 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
did not return any significant main effect of our manipula-
tion or the interaction for both positive mood index
(a¼.84) or negative mood index (a¼.90; all F’s <1),
thereby indicating nonsignificance of mood in the setting
of our study.
EXPERIMENT 6
Experiment 6 had two main objectives. First, it tested
whether the effect of scarcity salience on consumer creativ-
ity generalizes beyond the product usage context to a prod-
uct design context. Additionally, as a final test of the
proposed functional-fixedness account, experiment 6 ex-
amined whether explicitly fixating participants’ attention
on the traditional functionality of a product would attenu-
ate the impact of scarcity salience on product use creativ-
ity. We employed a 2 (Resource Availability: Scarcity vs.
Abundance) 2 (Traditional Functionality: Salient vs.
Control) between-subjects design, where resource avail-
ability was manipulated through a different task than used
in previous experiments. In particular, we utilized more
naturally occurring stimuli: We asked participants to en-
gage in an online search to obtain scarcity- versus abun-
dance-related images. Salience of a product’s traditional
functionality was manipulated through the instructions for
the focal design-related task. Specifically, we asked partic-
ipants to generate design ideas for an improved computer
keyboard. Under the traditional functionality salient condi-
tion, the participants were explicitly reminded of the typing
function of a keyboard, whereas in the control condition
there was no mention of the typing function.
Method
A total of 82 undergraduate students (41 women) at
Carnegie Mellon University completed this study in ex-
change for extra credit and were randomly assigned to one
of the four experimental conditions. Participants first com-
pleted an online search task that asked them to search the
Internet and look for pictures that demonstrated either re-
source scarcity or resource abundance. The specific in-
structions required participants to find five such pictures
and copy and paste the online links in the provided spaces
on the computer-based survey. After pasting each link, par-
ticipants were instructed to spend half a minute reflecting
on the featured picture by thinking about a real-world con-
text that they might find themselves in a similar situation.
Two research assistants, blind to the conditions, were pre-
sented with all the pictures downloaded from the links pro-
vided by the participants, and they indicated how much
they thought each of the picture demonstrated abundance
(r¼.88) and scarcity (r¼.83), on 7 point scales anchored
by “1 ¼Not al all” and “7 ¼Very much.” All five links re-
ported by one participant were found to be nonworking at
the time of analysis and hence this participant’s data were
excluded for this analysis. As expected, the pictures associ-
ated with the links reported in the scarcity condition were
rated to be significantly higher in demonstrating scarcity
(M¼5.12, SD ¼.87 vs. M¼2.46, SD ¼1.36) and lower in
demonstrating abundance (M¼1.84, SD ¼.53 vs.
M¼4.80, SD ¼1.54), as compared to the pictures in the
abundance condition (F(1, 79) ¼135.62, p<.001, Cohen’s
d¼2.57; F(1, 79) ¼111.64, p<.001, Cohen’s d¼2.33;
respectively).
After completing the picture task, all participants were
presented with the second ostensibly unrelated task, which
asked them to generate design ideas for an improved com-
puter keyboard. We manipulated the salience of the tradi-
tional functionality of the keyboard (i.e., typing) through
the instructions for completing this ideation task. In partic-
ular, the instructions read, “We would like you to think
about a product, i.e. a computer keyboard, similar to the
one you are using right now to do the typing, and imagine
that you are given an opportunity to improve it. In this task
we would like you to come up with creative ideas for an
improved computer keyboard. Your ideas can be geared to-
ward either new features or a completely new product.
Please refrain from listing ideas that may be virtually im-
possible.” The instructions used in the control condition
were otherwise identical except that the phrase “similar to
the one you are using right now to do the typing” was ab-
sent. Finally, all participants indicated how they felt on
four mood items adapted from Zhu, Billeter, and Inman
(2012), each on a 7 point scale, and answered the demo-
graphic questions.
Results and Discussion
A total of 323 design-related ideas were generated by
all of the participants. No difference was observed for
the number of ideas generated across four conditions
(M
scarcity, functional fixedness salient
¼3.89, SD ¼1.88; M
abundance,
functionalfixedness salient
¼4.18, SD ¼1.99; M
scarcity, control
¼3.87, SD ¼2.07; and M
abundance,control
¼3.79, SD ¼1.90;
all t’s <1).
Novelty. To assess the novelty of these design-related
ideas, we invited 15 judges (14 judges returned the com-
pleted ratings) from the same population as our participants
and asked them to rate all 323 ideas on innovativeness,
novelty, and originality on a 7 point scale (1 ¼Not at all;
7¼Very much). Following the same procedure as used in
experiment 3, an overall novelty score (a¼.61) was calcu-
lated for each participant. A two-way ANOVA conducted
for this novelty score indicated a significant interaction be-
tween resource availability and traditional functionality
(F(1, 78) ¼5.20, p¼.025, g
2
¼.06; see Figure 2).
Replicating the results from previous studies, under the
control condition (i.e., when the traditional typing function
of a keyboard was not made salient), the participants in the
MEHTA AND ZHU 777
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
scarcity condition (M¼3.89, SD ¼.27) generated the ideas
that were rated to be more novel as compared to the ideas
that were generated by the participants in the abundance
condition (M¼3.69, SD ¼.36; t(78) ¼2.04, p¼.045,
Cohen’s d¼.63). However, when the traditional function-
ality of keyboard (i.e., typing) was made salient, no differ-
ence was observed in the novelty of the ideas generated
between the scarcity (M¼3.66, SD ¼.27) and abundance
conditions (M¼3.78, SD ¼.33; t(78) ¼1.20, p>.20).
Further contrast analysis confirmed that participants in the
scarcity condition generated less novel ideas when the tra-
ditional functionality was made salient versus when it was
not (t(78) ¼2.33, p¼.022, Cohen’s d¼.85). The tradi-
tional functionality manipulation (salient vs. control) did
not produce a significant impact on novelty of the key-
board ideas for the participants in the abundance condition
(t<1).
Appropriateness. Next, to assess the appropriateness of
the generated ideas, we asked a separate set of 15 judges to
rate all of the ideas independently in terms of appropriate-
ness (effectiveness, practicality and usefulness) on a 7
point scale. As done previously, these ratings were used to
calculate an overall appropriateness score for each partici-
pant (a¼.82). A two-way ANOVA conducted for the ap-
propriateness index showed a marginally significant
interaction between resource availability and traditional
function salience (F(1, 78) ¼2.99, p¼.088, g
2
¼.04).
Further contrast analysis showed that no difference was
present in the appropriateness of the ideas between scarcity
and abundance conditions under control condition
(M
scarcity
¼4.10, SD ¼.40; M
abundance
¼4.26, SD ¼.42;
t(78) ¼1.06, p>.25) or when traditional functionality was
salient (M
scarcity
¼4.38, SD ¼.54; M
abundance
¼4.17,
SD ¼.54; (t(78) ¼1.38, p¼.172). However, analysis of
the other two contrasts showed that the ideas generated by
the participants under the scarcity condition were rated as
marginally more appropriate when traditional functionality
was salient versus when it was not (t(78) ¼1.86,
p¼.066, Cohen’s d¼.59). No difference was observed be-
tween the control and the traditional function salient condi-
tion when the ideas were generated under the abundance
condition (t<1).
Discussion. The results of experiment 6 provide addi-
tional process evidence by showing that explicitly fixating
participants’ attention on the traditional functionality atten-
uates the impact of scarcity on product use novelty. In par-
ticular, we find that under the control condition (i.e., when
traditional functionality of a product was not salient), the
participants in the scarcity versus abundance condition
generated more novel ideas to improve the featured prod-
uct. However, when traditional functionality of a product
was made salient, that is, the participants were fixated on
that functionality, they generated less novel ideas irrespec-
tive of the resource availability levels. Additionally, as in
experiments 5, no significant differences in either the posi-
tive mood index (r¼.64) or the negative mood index
(r¼.74; both F’s <1) were found across the scarcity or
abundance conditions, suggesting that it is unlikely that the
impact of scarcity salience on novelty is driven by mood-
based alternative explanations.
It is noteworthy that we found a marginally significant
difference across the two scarcity conditions in terms of
appropriateness: When participants were explicitly fixated
on the traditional functionality of a product, they generated
more appropriate design ideas. While ex ante we did not
theorize a conceptual difference between these two condi-
tions, we speculate that the relationship between scarcity
and creativity may not always be limited to novelty. It is
possible that scarcity makes creators push themselves more
on the appropriateness dimension when the novelty dimen-
sion is inhibited through functional salience. It is also nota-
ble that the difference in novelty across the scarcity control
condition (M¼3.89) and the abundance salient condition
(M¼3.78) did not reach statistical significance
(t(78) ¼1.18, p¼.24). The product design task used in
this study, instead of the product use contexts employed in
previous studies, might have led to this statistically nonsig-
nificant effect of scarcity on novelty. We elaborate more
on the possible boundary conditions of our effects in the
general discussion section.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
Whereas prior research indicates that context-specific
constraints may increase creativity within the constrained
FIGURE 2
NOVELTY OF THE GENERATED KEYBOARD IDEAS
(EXPERIMENT 6)
778 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
local environment, previous work has not examined how an
overall perception of resource constraints, such as perceived
scarcity of physical resources, may produce a context-inde-
pendent influence on creativity in an unrelated consumption
domain. This is an important question to address because
consumers are frequently exposed to scarcity cues in daily
decision environments, and these encounters could impact
their mindset and carry over to subsequent events where cre-
ativity may be called for. The current research fills this gap
and examines how a general sense of scarcity versus abun-
dance activated in a prior unrelated context may influence
consumer creativity in a subsequent product usage context.
Drawing from prior work, we propose that scarcity sa-
lience reduces functional fixedness, which consequently
enhances product use creativity. Across six studies, we
demonstrate consistently that scarcity versus abundance
leads to more novel product usages, without compromising
the appropriateness of the consumption solutions, in both
divergent thinking (experiments 1, 3–6) and convergent
thinking (experiment 2) contexts. A meta-analysis examin-
ing the reliability of the effect across our studies further
confirmed a significant impact of resource availability on
the novelty dimension of product use creativity (z¼5.08,
p<.001; Maner et al. 2003;Rosenthal 1991). Further we
uncover the underlying mechanism, showing that the effect
of scarcity salience on product use creativity is mediated
by functional fixedness (experiments 3 and 4) and moder-
ated by an experimentally induced focus on nontraditional
(experiment 5) and traditional product functionality (exper-
iment 6). We also extend the effects of scarcity on con-
sumer creativity beyond the product usage context to a
product design context (experiment 6).
The present research offers several theoretical contribu-
tions. First, while various theories suggest a possible nega-
tive impact of resource availability on creativity, the
current work advances these multiple lines of literature by
providing empirical evidence for this proposed connection
in well-controlled experimental settings. Specifically, the
notion that abundance might inhibit creativity has been
broadly suggested in different research streams: the materi-
alism literature showing that the centrality of material pos-
sessions hinders intellectual and spiritual development
(Belk 1985;Burroughs and Rindfleisch 2002;Kasser 2003;
Richins and Dawson 1992), the literature on consumption
and society arguing that modern mass production gives rise
to the harried leisure class (Linder 1970;Schor and Holt
2000), the historic writings on how overconsumption might
lead to the failure of complex and wealthy societies
(Diamond 2005;Tainter 1990), and the technology litera-
ture suggesting more sophisticated technology can usurp
human motivation and skills (Mick and Fournier 1998).
Additionally, extant research has proposed that scarcity
might facilitate creativity, such as the work on how home-
less and subsistence consumers survive through constant
innovation (Hill 2001;Rosa et al. 2012). However, the
possible negative correlation between resource availability
and creativity, as well as the underlying mechanism driving
such a linkage, has not been adequately demonstrated or
understood through controlled experimental studies. The
experiments reported in the current article thus take on a
great sense of importance by both providing an initial em-
pirical demonstration that scarcity (vs. abundance) en-
hances consumer creativity in the product usage contexts,
and by offering process evidence why this occurs.
Second, the current research adds theoretical understand-
ing to the creativity literature (Burroughs and Mick 2004;
Dahl and Moreau 2007;Mehta and Zhu 2009;Moreau and
Herd 2010) by demonstrating a context-independent linkage
between resource constraints and consumers’ product use
creativity. While previous research has shown that inducing
context-specific constraints in the creative process leads to
more creative ways of solving problems within the con-
strained local environment, the current work extends these
findings by demonstrating that the existence of a general
sense of scarcity may activate a constraint mindset that per-
sists to enhance consumers’ creativity in an unrelated,
unconstrained product usage domain. This finding is nota-
ble as we observe that people move away from functional
fixedness and think beyond traditional uses of a product
even when no immediate constraints exist for usage of the
subject product. Moreover, our work extends the existing
creativity literature by examining the effect of resource
scarcity in an understudied real-life consumption domain of
product use creativity, which differs from the simple adop-
tion of new and innovative products and instead entails
origination and production of new uses of existing products
(Hirschman 1980;Ridgway and Price 1994).
Third, this research adds to the existing scarcity litera-
ture (Laran and Salerno 2013;Roux, Goldsmith, and
Bonezzi 2015;Sevilla and Redden 2014;Shah et al. 2012;
Zhu and Ratner 2015) by shifting attention away from in-
vestigating the quantity and frequency of consumption
(e.g., the amount of products supplied, acquired or used),
to exploring the impact of scarcity on consumption quality
(e.g., the novelty and appropriateness of product use solu-
tions). The finding that a general sense of scarcity activated
in a prior context can affect product use creativity in subse-
quent, unrelated consumption environments supports the
emerging view that there is a context-independent connec-
tion between perception of scarcity and consumer judg-
ment and decision making (Griskevicius et al. 2011;Laran
and Salerno 2013;Shah et al. 2012;Zhu and Ratner 2015).
In addition, the finding that the results in the control condi-
tion parallel those in the abundance condition suggests that
by default, consumers in our studies perceive that resources
in the world in general are abundant rather than scarce.
These results are consistent with the sociological perspec-
tive of “abundance psychology” suggesting that as the
means of mass production become mastered, people in
modern industrialized societies have moved away from a
MEHTA AND ZHU 779
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
scarcity mindset and instead take abundance for granted
(Adams et al. 2012;Coˆte´ 1993,1996;Riesman 1950).
Further, the results from the current research consis-
tently demonstrate that scarcity increases the novelty of
product use solutions without compromising on the appro-
priateness of product use solutions. These findings are in
line with the literature on poverty and innovativeness that
argues having a positive expectation regarding the likeli-
hood of attaining a desired outcome that appropriately sol-
ves the problem at hand serves a crucial role in making
subsistence consumer innovation safe and productive
(Rosa et al. 2012). These results are also consistent with
the findings from prior creativity literature showing that
task-relevant constraints can enhance novelty in that partic-
ular task domain without reducing the appropriateness of
the solutions (Moreau and Dahl 2005;Sellier and Dahl
2011). However, the relationship between scarcity and cre-
ativity may not always be limited to novelty, and it is pos-
sible that scarcity may make the creators push themselves
more on the appropriateness dimension when the novelty
dimension is inhibited through functional salience (as seen
in the results of the experiment 6). It is also possible that
the relationship between novelty and abundance may not
be linear, such that extreme levels of abundance might fos-
ter breakthrough innovation. For example, while our re-
search focuses on product use creativity, more radical
innovations that require constant, costly experimentations
might benefit from formidable and abundant resources.
Future research may focus on further exploring the bound-
ary conditions when abundance might increase creativity.
The current work also opens up other avenues for further
research. For example, the scarcity manipulations em-
ployed in the current research focused on a general sense
of resource availability, which was activated through rather
subtle manipulations such as a writing task or a picture
search task. Future research could broaden the examination
to explore how physiological manipulations of resource
scarcity versus abundance (e.g., hunger vs. satiety) may af-
fect creativity. It is possible that the results exhibit a U-
shape pattern with lower creativity at high levels of hunger
and satiety, and higher creativity at medium levels of hun-
ger. Future investigations on how time constraints
(Burroughs and Mick 2004), leisure time (Dunst and Leet
1987), and emotional resources such as social support
(Brotheridge and Lee 2003) may affect product use creativ-
ity could also potentially yield important insights.
Additionally, current work primarily focuses on product
use creativity, which is an instantiation of consumer crea-
tivity in the product use context. Thus, in line with previous
research, the current work examines two primary dimen-
sions of creativity: novelty and appropriateness. Future re-
search could further explore the impact of a general sense
of resource availability on other dimensions such as aes-
thetics (e.g., liking, aesthetic appeal) and technical good-
ness (e.g., organization, neatness; Amabile 1979,1982). It
seems plausible that while scarcity enhances novelty, abun-
dance might have a more positive effect on aesthetics and
technical goodness. Moreover, the current work can be ex-
tended to understand the effect of scarcity on the adoption
of new innovative products as well as the performance of
other general everyday tasks that require creativity, such as
solving creative puzzles or generating social media content.
Finally, present findings have implications for marketers
who thrive on employees’ and consumers’ ability and de-
sire to be creative (Mehta et al. 2012), such as those in
home decor and fashion industries (Burroughs and Mick
2004;Burroughs et al. 2008). Our research indicates that
highlighting abundance (e.g., presenting abundant rather
than scarce supply of the available items) could backfire,
leading the designers or consumers in the focus group to be
less creative. Our research suggests that in design studios
or focus groups, marketers should activate a general sense
of scarcity rather than abundance.
We conclude with a consideration of the evolutionary
implications of the present findings. As we become a more
abundant society, do our average creativity levels decrease?
Findings from recent research support this proposition. In
accordance with our line of reasoning, the analysis of the
Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking performance data over
the past five decades indicates that in spite of the rise in IQ
scores, creative thinking scores have significantly decreased
since 1990, especially for kindergarteners through third
grade students (Kim 2011). It is possible that augmented
abundance in the late half century has been contributing to
the decrease in creativity. Thus although it may seem gener-
ally adaptive to employ traditionally established means and
previously successful solutions when the supply of re-
sources is abundant, this impact of resource availability on
functional fixedness will sometimes come at a cost.
DATA COLLECTION INFORMATION
The first author supervised the collection of data for ex-
periment 2 through Mechanical Turk during the fall of
2014, and the collection of data for experiments 1, 4, and 5
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during
spring 2014, fall 2013, and spring 2014, respectively. The
second author supervised the collection of data for experi-
ments 3 and 6 by research assistants at Carnegie Mellon
University during the spring and summer of 2011, and the
collection of data for the pilot study by research assistants
at Johns Hopkins University during fall 2012. All data
were primarily analyzed by the first author in discussion
and consultation with the second author.
REFERENCES
Adams, Glenn, Susanne Bruckmu¨ller, and Stephanie Decker
(2012), “Self and Agency in Context: Ecologies of
Abundance and Scarcity,” International Perspectives in
780 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
Psychology: Research, Practice, and Consultation, 1 (July),
141–53.
Amabile, Teresa M. (1979), “Effects of External Evaluation on
Artistic Creativity,” Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 37 (February), 221–33.
—. (1982), “Social Psychology of Creativity: A Consensual
Assessment Technique,” Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 43 (5), 997–1013.
—. (1983), “The Social Psychology of Creativity: A
Componential Conceptualization,” Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 45 (August), 357–77.
Belk, Russell W. (1985), “Materialism: Traits Aspects of Living
in the Material World,” Journal of Consumer Research,12
(December), 265–80.
Bernheim, B. Douglas, Daniel M. Garrett, and Dean M. Maki
(2001), “Education and Saving: the Long-term Effects of
High School Financial Curriculum Mandates,” Journal of
Public Economics, 80 (June), 435–65.
Booth, Alan (1984), “Responses to Scarcity,” Sociological
Quarterly, 25 (Winter), 113–24.
Brandsta¨tter, Veronika and Elisabeth Frank (2002), “Effects of
Deliberative and Implemental Mindsets on Persistence in
Goal-Directed Behavior,” Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 28 (October), 1366–78.
Briley, Donnel A. and Robert S. Wyer (2002), “The Effects of
Group Membership on the Avoidance of Negative Outcomes:
Implications for Social and Consumer Decisions,” Journal of
Consumer Research, 29 (December), 400–15.
Brock, Timothy C. (1968), “Implications of Commodity Theory
for Value Change,” in Psychological Foundations of
Attitudes, ed. Anthony G. Greenwald, Timothy C. Brock, and
Thomas M. Ostrom, New York: Academic Press, 243–75.
Brotheridge, Ce´leste M. and Raymond T. Lee (2003),
“Development and Validation of the Emotional Labour
Scale,” Journal of Occupational and Organizational
Psychology, 76 (September), 365–79.
Burroughs, James E. and David G. Mick (2004), “Exploring
Antecedents and Consequences of Consumer Creativity in a
Problem-Solving Context,” Journal of Consumer Research,
31 (September), 402–11.
Burroughs, James E., Page C. Moreau, and David Glen Mick
(2008), “Toward a Psychology of Consumer Creativity,” in
Handbook of Consumer Psychology, ed. Curtis P. Haugtvedt,
Paul M. Herr, and Frank R. Kardes, New York: Erlbaum,
1011–38.
Burroughs, James E. and Aric Rindfleisch (2002), “Materialism
and Well-Being: A Conflicting Values Perspective,” Journal
of Consumer Research, 29 (December), 348–70.
Chandran, Sucharita and Vicki G. Morwitz (2005), “Effects of
Participative Pricing on Consumers’ Cognitions and Actions:
A Goal Theoretic Perspective,” Journal of Consumer
Research, 32 (September), 249–59.
Chaturvedi, Avinish, Chi-yue Chiu, and Madhubalan Viswanathan
(2009), “Literacy, Negotiable Fate, and Thinking Style
Among Low Income Women in India,” Journal of Cross-
Cultural Psychology, 40 (September), 880–93.
Cialdini, Robert B. (2009), Influence: The Psychology of
Persuasion. New York: HarperCollins.
Cleaver, Frances (2005), “The Inequality of Social Capital and the
Reproduction of Chronic Poverty,” World Development,33
(June), 893–906.
Coˆte´, James E. (1993), “Foundations of a Psychoanalytic Social
Psychology: Neo-Eriksonian Propositions Regarding the
Relationship Between Psychic Structure and
Cultural Institutions,” Developmental Review, 13 (March),
31–53.
—. (1996), “Sociological Perspectives on Identity Formation:
The Culture-Identity Link and Identity Capital,” Journal of
Adolescence, 19 (October), 417–28.
Dahl, Darren W. and Page C. Moreau (2007), “Thinking Inside the
Box: Why Consumers Enjoy Constrained Creative
Experiences,” Journal of Marketing Research, 44 (August),
357–69.
Diamond, Jared (2005), Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail
or Succeed, New York: Viking.
Duncker, Karl (1945), “On Problem Solving,” Psychological
Monographs, 58 (5; Whole No. 270).
Dunst, Carl J. and Hope E. Leet (1987), “Measuring the Adequacy
of Resources in Households with Young Children,” Child:
Care, Health and Development, 13 (March), 111–25.
Finke, Ronald A. (1990), Creative Imagery: Discoveries and
Inventions in Visualization, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Finke, Ronald A., Thomas B. Ward, and Steven M. Smith (1992),
Creative Cognition: Theory, Research, and Applications,
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Folkes, Valerie S., Ingrid M. Martin, and Kamal Gupta (1993),
“When to Say When: Effects of Supply on Usage,” Journal
of Consumer Research, 20 (December), 467–77.
Glucksberg, Sam and Robert W. Weisberg (1966), “Verbal
Behavior and Problem Solving: Some Effects of Labeling in
a Functional Fixedness Problem,” Journal of Experimental
Psychology 71 (5), 659–64.
Goldenberg, Jacob, David Mazursky, and Sorin Solomon (1999),
“Toward Identifying the Inventive Templates of New
Products: A Channeled Ideation Approach,” Journal of
Marketing Research, 36 (May), 200–10.
Griskevicius, Valdas, Joshua M. Tybur, Andrew W. Delton, and
Theresa E. Robertson (2011), “The Influence of Mortality
and Socioeconomic Status on Risk and Delayed Rewards: A
Life History Theory Approach,” Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 100 (June), 1015–26.
Guilford, Joy P. (1959), “Three Faces of Intellect,” American
Psychologist, 14 (8), 469–79.
Hayes, Andrew F. (2013), Introduction to Mediation, Moderation,
and Conditional Process Analysis: A Regression-Based
Approach, New York: Guilford Press.
Hill, Ronald Paul (2001), Surviving in a Material World: The
Lived Experience of People in Poverty, Notre Dame, IN:
University of Notre Dame Press.
Hirschman, Elizabeth C. (1980), “Innovativeness, Novelty
Seeking, and Consumer Creativity,” Journal of Consumer
Research, 7 (December), 283–95.
—. (1984), “Experience Seeking: A Subjectivist Perspective of
Consumption,” Journal of Business Research, 12 (March),
115–36.
Johnson, Richard, Gordon B. T. Mermin, and Dan Murphy (2007),
“The Impact of Late-Career Health and Employment Shocks
on Social Security and Other Wealth,” Retirement Project
Discussion Paper Series 07-07. Washington, DC: The Urban
Institute.
Kasser, Tim (2003), The High Price of Materialism, Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Kim, Kyung H. (2011), “The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in
Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative
Thinking,” Creativity Research Journal, 23 (December),
285–95.
MEHTA AND ZHU 781
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
Laran, Juliano and Anthony Salerno (2013), “Life-History
Strategy, Food Choice, and Caloric Consumption,”
Psychological Science, 24 (February), 167–73.
Linder, Staffan B. (1970), The Harried Leisure Class, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Luchins, Abraham S. (1942), “Mechanization in Problem
Solving,” Psychological Monographs, 54 (248), 1–95.
Luchins, Abraham S. and Edith Hirsch Luchins (1959), Rigidity of
Behavior: A Variational Approach to the Effect of
Einstellung, Eugene: University of Oregon Press.
Ludwig, Jens, Greg J. Duncan, and Paul Hirschfield (2001),
“Urban Poverty and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a
Randomized Housing-mobility Experiment,” Quarterly
Journal of Economics, 116 (2), 655–79.
Maddux, William W. and Adam D. Galinsky (2009), “Cultural
Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between
Living Abroad and Creativity,” Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 96 (5), 1047–61.
Maner, Jon K., Douglas T. Kenrick, D. Vaughn Becker, Andrew
W. Delton, Brian Hofer, Christopher J. Wilbur, and Steven L.
Neuberg (2003), “Sexually Selective Cognition: Beauty
Captures the Mind of the Beholder,” Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 85 (6), 1107–20.
Mehta, Ravi and Rui (Juliet) Zhu (2009), “Blue or Red? Exploring
the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances,”
Science, 323 (5918), 1226–29.
Mehta, Ravi, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema (2012), “Is
Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise
on Creative Cognition,” Journal of Consumer Research,39
(December), 784–99.
Mick, David G. and Susan Fournier (1998), “Paradoxes of
Technology: Consumer Cognizance, Emotions, and Coping
Strategies,” Journal of Consumer Research, 25 (September),
123–43.
Moreau, C. Page and Darren W. Dahl (2005), “Designing the
Solution: The Impact of Constraints on Consumers’
Creativity,” Journal of Consumer Research, 32 (June), 13–22.
Moreau, C. Page and Kelly B. Herd (2010), “To Each His Own?
How Comparisons with Others Influence Consumers’
Evaluations of Their Self-Designed Products,” Journal of
Consumer Research, 36 (February), 806–19.
Oppenheimer, Daniel M., Tom Meyvis, and Nicolas Davidenko
(2009), “Instructional Manipulation Checks: Detecting
Satisficing to Increase Statistical Power,” Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 45 (July), 867–72.
Otnes, Cele, Jacqueline Kacen, and Tina M. Lowrey (2001),
“Consumer Innovativeness and Christmas Gift Giving,” pa-
per presented at the American Marketing Association Winter
Educators’ conference, Scottsdale, AZ.
Price, Linda L. and Nancy M. Ridgway (1983), “Development of
a Scale to Measure Use Innovativeness,” in Advances in
Consumer Research, Vol. 10, ed. Richard P. Bagozzi and
Alice M. Tybout, Ann Abor, MI: Association for Consumer
Research, 679–84.
Richins, Marsha L. and Scott Dawson (1992), “A Consumer
Values Orientation for Materialism and Its Measurement:
Scale Development and Validation,” Journal of Consumer
Research, 19 (December), 303–16.
Ridgway, Nancy M. and Linda L. Price (1994), “Exploration in
Product Usage: A Model of Use Innovativeness,” Psychology
& Marketing, 11(January/February), 69–84.
Riesman, David (1950), The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing
American Character, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Rosa, Jose´ Antonio, Stephanie Geiger-Oneto, and Andre´s Barrios
Fajardo (2012), “Hope and Innovativeness: Transformative
Factors for Subsistence Consumer-Merchants,” in
Transformative Consumer Research for Personal and
Collective Well-Being, ed. David Glen Mick, Simone
Pettigrew, Cornelia Pechmann, and Julie L. Ozanne, New
York: Routledge, 151–70.
Rosenthal, Robert (1991), Meta-Analytic Procedures for Social
Research, Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Roux, Caroline, Kelly Goldsmith, and Andrea Bonezzi (2015),
“On the Psychology of Scarcity: When Reminders of
Resource Scarcity Promote Selfish (and Generous)
Behavior,” Journal of Consumer Research, doi: 10.1093/jcr/
ucv048.
Schor, Juliet B. and Douglas B. Holt (2000), The Consumer
Society Reader, New York: New Press.
Scopelliti, Irene, Paola Cillo, Bruno Busacca, and David
Mazursky (2014), “How Do Financial Constraints Affect
Creativity?” Journal of Product Innovation Management
31(5), 880–93.
Sellier, Anne-Laure and Darren W. Dahl (2011), “Focus! Creative
Success Is Enjoyed Through Restricted Choice,” Journal of
Marketing Research, 48 (December), 996–1007.
Sevilla, Julio and Joseph P. Redden (2014), “Limited Availability
Reduces the Rate of Satiation,” Journal of Marketing
Research, 51 (April), 205–17.
Shah, Anuj K., Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir (2012),
“Some Consequences of Having Too Little,” Science, 338
(6107), 682–85.
Sternberg, Robert J. and Todd I. Lubart (1999), “The Concept of
Creativity: Prospects and Paradigms,” in Handbook of
Creativity, ed. Robert J. Sternberg, New York: Cambridge
University Press, 3–15.
Stokes, Patricia D. (2001), “Variability, Constraints, and
Creativity: Shedding Light on Claude Monet,” American
Psychologist, 56 (April), 355–59.
Tainter, Joseph (1990), The Collapse of Complex Societies,
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Vohs, Kathleen D., Nicole L. Mead, and Miranda R. Goode
(2006), “The Psychological Consequences of Money,”
Science, 314 (5802), 1154–56.
Ward, Thomas B. (1994), “Structured Imagination: The Role of
Category Structure in Exemplar Generation,” Cognitive
Psychology, 27 (August), 1–40.
—. (1998), “Analogical Distance and Purpose in Creative
Thought: Mental Leaps Versus Mental Hops,” in Advances in
Analogy Research, ed. Keith Holyoak, Dedre Gentner, and
Boicho Kokinov, Sofia, Bulgaria: New Bulgarian University
Press, 221–30.
Xu, Alison Jing and Robert S. Wyer (2007), “The Effect of Mind-
Sets on Consumer Decision Strategies,” Journal of Consumer
Research, 34 (December), 556–66.
Zevon, Michael A. and Auke Tellegen (1982), “The Structure of
Mood Change: An Idiographic/Nomothetic Analysis,”
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 43 (July),
111–22.
Zhu, Meng, Darron M. Billeter, and J. Jeffrey Inman (2012), “The
Double-Edged Sword of Signaling Effectiveness: When
Salient Cues Curb Postpurchase Consumption,” Journal of
Marketing Research, 49 (1), 26–38.
Zhu, Meng and Rebecca Ratner (2015), “Scarcity Polarizes
Preferences: The Impact on Choice Among Multiple Items in a
Product Class,” Journal of Marketing Research, 52 (1), 13–26.
782 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
at Adam Ellsworth on April 1, 2016http://jcr.oxfordjournals.org/Downloaded from
CopyrightofJournalofConsumerResearchisthepropertyofOxfordUniversityPress/USA
anditscontentmaynotbecopiedoremailedtomultiplesitesorpostedtoalistservwithout
thecopyrightholder'sexpresswrittenpermission.However,usersmayprint,download,or
emailarticlesforindividualuse.
... In marketing, creativity involves the development of new product ideas that differ from what already exists and can be effectively brought to market (Mehta & Zhu, 2016;Sellier & Dahl, 2011). Previous literature on new product creativity recognizes that creative products must reflect some level of practicality or appropriateness but stresses the importance of novelty in determining new product success (e.g., Cropley, 2006;Garfield et al., 2001). ...
... As such, we assess creativity through two orthogonal dimensions: novelty (i.e., originality and innovativeness) and appropriateness (i.e., effectiveness and practicality) (e.g., Burroughs et al., 2008;Herd and Mehta, 2019;Mehta et al., 2012Mehta et al., , 2017. Consistent with this prior research, we expect that our independent variable increases the novelty of new product ideas but has no effect on idea appropriateness (Herd & Mehta, 2019;Lu et al., 2017;Mehta & Zhu, 2016;Moreau and Dahl, 2005;Sellier & Dahl, 2011). Specifically, we predict that while touch (vs. ...
... Hence, we captured both dimensions; we expected that active touch would enhance novelty and have no impact on appropriateness. Following previous research (Mehta & Zhu, 2016) and using Amabile's (1982) consensual assessment technique, 14 paid raters were recruited using Amazon's Mechanical Turk (64% female, M age = 39) and rated the novelty of the designs using the three 6-point scales (not at all original/very original; not at all innovative/ very innovative; not at all novel/very novel; inter-rater α = 0.85; Moreau & Dahl, 2005; see Web Appendix C for details). Consistent with prior research, raters were blind to conditions, and the designs were presented in a randomized order. ...
Article
Full-text available
An increasing number of firms rely on consumers to develop new ideas for the marketplace. While many firms rely on online crowdsourcing communities, some have created facilities that encourage in-person ideation through which consumers can interact with product design materials. This research proposes that active touch engenders a positive effect on new product creativity and highlights the importance of touch during idea generation. We further suggest that interacting with an object via active touch increases positive mood, which enhances creative performance. Results from two studies provide support for these hypotheses. Study 1 demonstrates the positive effect of active touch on new product creativity. Study 2 replicates this effect in a different product development context and provides evidence that a positive mood mediates the active touch-creativity relationship. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11002-022-09628-5.
... Even by stating that corporate tensions can affect individual-level decisions, the literature on tensions and paradox has focused mainly on the organizational level, i.e., addressing the impact of these tensions on how corporations react to simultaneous and competitive pressures. Previous studies, such as Lomranz and Benyamini (2016), Mehta and Zhu (2015), Miron-Spektor et al. (2017), andMiron-Spektor et al. (2011), have already advanced in the literature when they observe that the scarcity of resources, incongruities and conflicts can generate desirable consequences, such as increasing creativity, perceiving positivity in adverse situations and managing problems. However, it is not clear how this effect is related in the context of the professional career. ...
... In other words, the indirect effect of tensions mediated by the paradox mindset provided a positive effect on employee satisfaction with their careers and personal lives. Other studies have proposed discussions on different ways of looking at problems, studies such as those by Miron-Spektor et al. (2017), Lüscher and Lewis (2008), Mehta and Zhu (2015), and Lomranz and Benyamini (2016) have already found evidence that adverse situations can bring positive results. This study collaborates with this strand by directing the discussion to how we view problems and not only how to avoid them. ...
Article
Full-text available
any purpose, even commercially, if provided, in a clear and explicit way, the name of the journal, the edition, the year and the pages on which the paper was originally published, but not suggesting that RAM endorses paper reuse. This licensing term should be made explicit in cases of reuse or distribution to third parties. Este artigo pode ser copiado, distribuído, exibido, transmitido ou adaptado para qualquer fim, mesmo que comercial, desde que citados, de forma clara e explícita, o nome da revista, a edição, o ano e as páginas nas quais o artigo foi publicado originalmente, mas sem sugerir que a RAM endosse a reutilização do artigo. Esse termo de licenciamento deve ser explicitado para os casos de reutilização ou distribuição para terceiros. Do tensions lead to positive career satisfaction results? ISSN 1678-6971 (electronic version) • RAM, São Paulo, 23(3), eRAMR220200, 2022 Resources and Entrepreneurial Development, https://doi.
... Even by stating that corporate tensions can affect individual-level decisions, the literature on tensions and paradox has focused mainly on the organizational level, i.e., addressing the impact of these tensions on how corporations react to simultaneous and competitive pressures. Previous studies, such as Lomranz and Benyamini (2016), Mehta and Zhu (2015), Miron-Spektor et al. (2017), andMiron-Spektor et al. (2011), have already advanced in the literature when they observe that the scarcity of resources, incongruities and conflicts can generate desirable consequences, such as increasing creativity, perceiving positivity in adverse situations and managing problems. However, it is not clear how this effect is related in the context of the professional career. ...
... In other words, the indirect effect of tensions mediated by the paradox mindset provided a positive effect on employee satisfaction with their careers and personal lives. Other studies have proposed discussions on different ways of looking at problems, studies such as those by Miron-Spektor et al. (2017), Lüscher and Lewis (2008), Mehta and Zhu (2015), and Lomranz and Benyamini (2016) have already found evidence that adverse situations can bring positive results. This study collaborates with this strand by directing the discussion to how we view problems and not only how to avoid them. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objetivo Esta pesquisa procurou analisar o efeito da mentalidade paradoxal como mediador da relação entre experimentação do estresse com satisfação na carreira e satisfação com a vida. Originalidade/valor O presente estudo permitiu realizar três avanços principais na literatura de paradoxo e satisfação com a carreira. Primeiro, contribuiu analisando o paradoxo no nível individual. Segundo, o estudo colabora com a literatura de satisfação com a carreira, aumentando a possibilidade de perceber as tensões como um fator positivo. Terceiro e, finalmente, o presente estudo avançou na literatura de satisfação com a carreira, trazendo o indivíduo como protagonista em sua carreira. Design/metodologia/abordagem Com base na amostra de 245 respondentes válidos (mais de 10 anos de carreira), foi utilizado para a análise de dados e teste de hipóteses, uma análise multivariada da modelagem por equações estruturais (MEE). Além disso, realizamos o teste variance accounted for (VAF) ou variance explained, a fim de apresentar o efeito mediador proposto no estudo. Resultados Os resultados mostraram uma relação significativa negativa direta entre tensões e satisfação com a carreira e a vida. Isso indica que as tensões na carreira também podem levar a efeitos positivos, pois tendem a promover uma maior capacidade do indivíduo (mentalidade paradoxal) de lidar com tensões conflitantes, e essa capacidade permite a obtenção de resultados positivos. Na prática, os resultados deste estudo podem inspirar profissionais. Eles podem usar os resultados, mudar os cenários anteriormente vistos como negativos e pessimistas e vê-los como uma oportunidade para desenvolver uma mentalidade paradoxal e, portanto, a capacidade de lidar de maneira equilibrada e satisfatória com as tensões. / Purpose This research aims to analyze the effect of the paradox mindset as a mediator of the relationship between stress experimentation with career satisfaction and life satisfaction. Originality/value The present study allowed for making three major advances for the literature of paradox and career satisfaction. First, it contributed by analyzing the paradox at the individual level. Second, the study cooperates with the career satisfaction literature, raising the possibility of perceiving tensions as a positive factor. Third, the present research has advanced in the career satisfaction literature by bringing the individual as a protagonist in their career. Design/methodology/approach Based on the sample of 245 valid respondents (with more than ten years in a career), it was used for data analysis and hypothesis testing, a multivariate analysis of structural equations modeling (SEM). Furthermore, the variance accounted for (VAF) test or variance explained was performed in order to present the mediating effect proposed in the study. Findings The results showed a direct negative significant relationship between tensions and satisfaction with career and life. This indicates that career tensions can also lead to positive effects since they tend to promote a greater ability of the individual (paradox mindset) to deal with conflicting situations. Such ability enables the achievement of positive results. In practice, the results of this study suggest that changing scenarios previously seen as negative and problematic to a more paradoxical mindset can help individuals deal with uncontrollable tensions and therefore improve the ability to feel more satisfied with one’s career.
... First, this study found that consumer creativity can be stimulated by providing input from different cultural experiences. The results of this study are inconsistent with the existing literature on the effects of resource scarcity on consumer creativity; previous research has shown a negative relationship between resource abundance and innovativeness, with individuals with fewer resources tending to be more exploratory in creative tasks (Ravi & Meng, 2016). In contrast, consumers in the multicultural experiences scenario in this experimental study were more creative, and the difference in the results of this study can be explained in two ways. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the context of globalization, consumers with multicultural experiences are increasingly involved in the process of value creation, yet there is a lack of understanding of how multiculturalism affects consumer creativity. Based on the dual perspectives of multiculturalism and loose-tight culture, this paper illustrates the mechanism of multicultural experience on consumer creativity and the moderating effect of loose-tight culture on this relationship. Two studies (a questionnaire study and an experimental study) were conducted to validate the theoretical model. The results revealed that multicultural experiences enhance consumer creativity, cognitive complexity mediates the relationship between the two, and loose-tight culture moderates the relationship between multicultural experiences and consumer creativity. The loose culture scenario has a positive enhancement effect, the tight culture scenario has a negative weakening effect, and the interaction between multicultural experiences and loose-tight culture affects consumer creativity through cognitive complexity. The results of this study provide a new perspective on the relationship between culture and consumer creativity, expanding the study of culture and consumer creativity from the cultural value dimension to the social norm dimension, enriching the research on creativity as a cognitive process at the consumer level, and providing guidance and reference for companies to better stimulate and utilize consumer creativity.
... private labels) for expensive ones (e.g. national brands), or use products more creatively (Mehta & Zhu, 2016). Scarcity may also prompt individuals to demonstrate immoral (Goldsmith et al., 2018) or selfish behaviours (Roux et al., 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
Resource scarcity, manifested through limited time, money or space, is a prevalent aspect of family life. Drawing on depth interviews with 30 families from diverse demographic backgrounds, this study develops a framework to demonstrate how families respond to resource scarcity. Our research examines how multi-dimensional, concurrent and/or consecutive life events, such as job changes, house moves, or childbirth, create a mismatch between available and required resources to trigger situational resource scarcity. We identify different patterns of adjustments in consumption and resource investment over time, based on families' chronic resources and reliance on support networks. Notably, the greater flexibility afforded by multiple family members is constrained by collective goals, domains of control, tensions and negotiations. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11747-022-00882-7.
... Our conceptual model is presented in Figure 1 below. negative (Amabile, 1996) while others a positive (Janssen, 2000;Mehta & Zhu, 2016) association between workload and creative behaviors (Baer & Oldham, 2006). Such discrepancy in findings can be partially explained by Person-Environment fit theory (Van Vianen, 2018) which proposes that people have an innate need to fit environments that match their own characteristics. ...
Article
Full-text available
How does employees’ work context and job characteristics influence their creative behavior? To explore this question, this study draws on the Job Demands – Job Resources (JD-R) model to examine the role of excessive work overload and training and development on employee creative behaviors. Specifically, we explore whether employees’ work passion mitigates or enhances the effects of work overload and training and development on their creative behavior. Data from 142 employee-supervisor dyads from a Singaporean telecommunications organization showed that work overload positively influenced employee creative behavior. Additionally, employees’ work passion was found to enhance the effects of training and development on their creative behavior. The study contributes to ongoing debates in the literature regarding how specific characteristics of one’s job and targeted HR practices may foster employee creativity.
Article
Individuals frequently experience restrictions in their mobility owing to circumstances outside of their control. This paper examines the effect of mobility restrictions on individuals’ perceptions of personal freedom, and subsequent preferences for tourism advertisements. In a secondary data analysis and three experiments, we show that physical confinement triggered by restricted mobility causes individuals to psychologically feel that their personal freedoms are threatened. In turn, these experiences result in a compensatory response, where people more strongly prefer advertisements that signal scarcity-reduction over advertisements that signal control-restoration. This effect is mitigated when people are prevention-oriented and is reversed when the restrictions are enacted absolutely (without ambiguity and possible mutability). We discuss the implications of our findings for advertising practice and strategies for tourism product placement.
Article
The importance of creativity to organizations is significant, ergo, scholars have begun to investigate how sensory elements in the workplace might impact creative performance. Our research examines effects of the sensory experience of taste, specifically sweetness, on creativity. Using a range of real taste tests and imagination tasks, we demonstrate that sweet taste facilitates creative performance. We argue that this is because sweet taste, as a positive implicit affective cue, increases cognitive flexibility and creativity independent of the elicitation of positive emotions. However, when the positive associations of sweet taste are externally overridden, such as when health risks are made salient, the positive impact of sweet taste on creativity is attenuated. We further demonstrate that sensory experience of sweetness increases performance on related tasks that require cognitive flexibility, but does not increase performance on non-creative tasks.
Article
In social marketing campaigns, demonstrating the severity of scarcity to highlight the importance of reducing wasteful behaviours is a prevalent approach that seems logically justified. However, whether and how a scarcity mindset influences product usage in waste generation remains unclear. The present article reveals the process underlying the effect of a scarcity mindset on product usage. A series of studies demonstrate that reminding consumers of a scarcity experience induces them to be more selfishly oriented and to experience less anticipated guilt of waste, thereby increasing their usage amount. Furthermore, enhancing the possession–self link with ownership and conducting recycling education for the classification of unrecyclable waste can moderate the effects of a scarcity mindset on usage quantity. This research thus advances our understanding of the factors that affect consumption quantity and sheds light on waste prevention and reduction.
Article
Purpose Consumers seldom consider end-use consumption (reuse or upcycling) when products reach the end of their lifecycle. This study shows that end-use consumption can be encouraged if individuals are primed to think creatively, engage in end-use ideation (imagine end-use) and become inspired by more original ideas. Design/methodology/approach Three studies were carried out. Study 1 tested if creativity priming resulted in more effective end-use ideation (greater number of ideas and more original ideas) compared to environmental appeals and no intervention. Study 2 tested the effectiveness of creativity priming in a longitudinal setting. Study 3 demonstrated how creativity priming and end-use ideation could be practically executed using product packaging. Findings Creativity priming represents an effective intervention to stimulate end-use consumption with particularly positive results amongst less creative consumers. However, it was not the number of generated ideas, but their originality during end-use ideation that triggered inspiration. Research limitations/implications This study demonstrates which interventions are more effective in changing consumer behaviour in favour of more sustainable practices. Practical implications Increasing environmental degradation requires consumers to change their behaviour by re-consuming products. This study shows that consumers can adopt end-use if they are primed to think creatively, imagine end-use consumption and generate more original ideas. Originality/value Creative thinking has been leveraged at product development stages, but not at the end of products’ lifecycle. This study integrated creativity priming, consumer imagination and inspiration theories to explain the underlying mechanism behind end-use consumption to scale up its adoption by consumers.
Article
Full-text available
Consumers often encounter reminders of resource scarcity. However, relatively little is known about the psychological processes that such reminders instantiate. In this article, we posit that reminders of resource scarcity activate a competitive orientation, which guides consumers' decision making towards advancing their own welfare. Further, we reveal that this tendency can manifest in behaviors that appear selfish, but also in behaviors that appear generous, in conditions where generosity allows for personal gains. The current research thus offers a more nuanced understanding of why resource scarcity may promote behaviors that appear either selfish or generous in different contexts, and provides one way to reconcile seemingly conflicting prior findings.
Article
Examined the conditions under which the imposition of an extrinsic constraint upon performance of an activity can lead to decrements in creativity. 95 female undergraduates worked on an art activity either with or without the expectation of external evaluation. In addition, Ss were asked to focus on either the creative or the technical aspects of the activity or they were given no specific focus. Finally, some Ss expecting evaluation were given explicit instructions on how to make their artworks. As predicted, Ss in the evaluation groups produced artworks significantly lower on judged creativity than did Ss in the nonevaluation control groups. The only evaluation group for which this pattern was reversed had received explicit instructions on how to make artworks that would be judged creative. A possible reconciliation of these 2 disparate results is proposed, and practical implications are discussed. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).