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Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,531 Ratings  ·  380 Reviews
A surprising and intriguing examination of how scarcity—and our flawed responses to it—shapes our lives, our society, and our culture

Why do successful people get things done at the last minute? Why does poverty persist? Why do organizations get stuck firefighting? Why do the lonely find it hard to make friends? These questions seem unconnected, yet Sendhil Mullainathan and
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ebook, 304 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Times Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Richard
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Are the poor to blame for their poverty? For their flawed choices?

Are the overweight, struggling with a diet? What about those who complain of being too busy? What about the lonely?

What these have in common is scarcity, something that economists have always studied. But until fairly recently, the idea of studying cognition, or feelings, from an economic perspective would have been absurd, or even heretical. The field of behavioral economics and neuroeconomics has changed that, and took off like
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Leland Beaumont
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The mathematics of queuing theory demonstrates that as resource utilization approaches 100%, queue length and delay increase toward infinity. Systems that are not resilient to congestion reach a point of overload where they experience a decrease in carried load even as offered load increases. We experience this when congested highways encounter “volume delays” – fewer cars per hour get through simply because too many are trying to get through.

The authors apply these principles, without the math,
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Kristof Smits
I once heard Sendhil Mullainathan speak at an event in DC, and he was smart and engaging. He's a MacArthur Foundation genius, a Harvard economist, and a TED speaker. He has a wry sense of humor and tells anecdotes from his personal life to make his economics work come alive. And all of that is in this book, written with his long-time collaborator, Eldar Shafir, who's a Princeton psychologist.

Still this book was a bit of a disappointment, possibly because I expected so much. A lot of the conclusi
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Lena
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This extremely important book takes a close and counter-intuitive look at how the brain behaves when confronted with the lack of something. That something is often money, but it can also be time, or will power, or human connection. In a nutshell, it explains how the brain's default method of creating immediate solutions to urgent problems can very often create a much larger problem down the road.

The reason for this is that urgent problems causes the brain to tunnel, which takes a tremendous amou
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Avi Kalderon
While I find the topic very interesting and the science and research put into understanding the scarcity factor intriguing, I think the book was overly long, repetitive and quite frankly circular. Many of the points and ideas made were well described early in the book and yet 70% of it was just regurgitating the same themes. Many books are written in such manner especially when they deal with non-fiction topics and this book is no different. Editors must be gunning for volume and as such authors ...more
Brian Clegg
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no scarcity of books about the brain and psychology and emotion. In fact, the shelves are groaning with them. But here's a psychological take on what you might regard as a problem of economics - and that makes it genuinely fascinating. So it's a shame that it doesn't work better as a book - but this is one of those titles that you will want to read despite that.

The authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir look at the nature of scarcity and, crucially, the effect it has on human per
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Clif Hostetler
Some people say poor people have poor ways, the implication being that they are poor because of their poor ways. These authors maintain that the reverse is true, that people have poor ways because they are poor. They say it can be explained by the psychology of scarcity.

What will suprise many readers is that rich (or non-poor) persons manifest the same behavior attributed to poor people when subjected to situations of scarcity (e.g. lack of time). In other words, the rich often have poor ways to
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Jon Fish
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of the book is that we have a limited amount of mental bandwidth and we use a bit of that bandwidth each time we address a problem. Poverty, time pressure, and responsibilities all tax our mental bandwidth, even when we are not actively thinking about them. The value of this text is not in highlighting that pressure from outside factors affects us all the time, but rather in explaining the importance of considering bandwidth in designing programs, assigning tasks, etc.

"Scarcity" prov
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Laura
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Reading Group
Proposes that scarcity undermines rationality in consistent but unrecognized ways across human life. The schedule, the diet, the budget, the farm, the attempt to connect. The butter was spread a little thin, but I appreciate that this book attempted to be humane about human failings. I also appreciate that it did not fall into the Malcolm Gladwell smugness about how we’re doing it wrong, without any help on doing it right. Mullainathan and Shafir at least tried, though their suggestions did soun ...more
Marcin Zaremba
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scarcity to 2/3 bardzo szczegółowy opis badań nad sposobem podejmowania decyzji pod wpływem braków (kalorii, czasu, pieniędzy) a w 1/3 opis wniosków. Pierwsza część jest generalnie interesująca ale bardzo trudna w odbiorze w formie audiobooka. Za to końcówka jest świetna, dokładna, konkretna i zmieniająca sposób patrzenia na rzeczywistość.

Autorzy pokazują czym jest przepustowość mentalna (cognitive bandwidth) i jak ludzie, którzy mają mało kalorii/czasu/pieniędzy mają też mało przepustowości bo
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Pete Welter
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Scarcity" is one of those books that explains some aspect of the world in a way you hadn't though of before, in an accessible form, and backed by research results. I'd put books like Thinking, Fast and Slow, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, and The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies in this category. They stretch your expectations and your perspectives.

In this book, scarcity is considered in a variety of forms, including a lac
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Danielle
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fabio Ismerim
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Uma nova forma de enxergar os motivos, causas e efeitos da pobreza, falta de tempo, impulsos, dificuldade na dieta, enfim, tudo que envolve a escassez.
Com muitas referências de pesquisa, este livro mostra o porque a Economia Comportamental consegue, ao menos tenta, explicar os motivos pelos quais tomamos decisões.

Aqui fica bem explicado porque a escassez torna tudo mais complicado. Ao mesmo tempo que ficamos focado para cumprir determinada tarefa (pense em um projeto que você esteja envolvido e
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Ryan Bell
Excellent, accessible analysis of the problem of bandwidth tax and the way poverty causes more poverty.

"One prevailing view explains the strong correlation between poverty and failure by saying failure causes poverty. Our data suggest causality runs at least as strongly in the other direction: that poverty—the scarcity mindset—causes failure" (155).

Their policy suggestions based on these observations are less inspiring and still enthrall to the same basic assumptions about poverty: that merit-b
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Jane
Note the diverse shelves to which I assigned this title. The authors, a Harvard prof/MacArthur genius grant winner and a Princeton prof, studied what happens when we're short on time, money, good relationships and more. Guess what? We lose "bandwidth." If we're overtaxed at work, we can't be the people we want to be to those we care most about. If we're constantly worried about making ends meet and whether our children are going to bed hungry, we "tunnel," able to focus only on short-term fast f ...more
Sara
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
5 stars for relevancy, interest and ability to make economic and psychological theories accessible. 3 stars for construction - I think the authors were going for an early summary and then a more in depth look at the points,but that wasn't always clear and so thematically, it could feel repetitive in some parts.

This book, along with Better Angels Among Us, should be required reading for all legislators, educators, and managers, and certainly anyone working in public policy. It was an easily acces
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Dennis
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
What do you know, having too much to do can cause one to lose focus, become scatterbrained, and experience frustration. And I'll be, working under pressure can lead to increased productivity if not better results.

The authors' anecdotes were amusing. But overall this book was more "duh" than epiphany. I'd hoped to learn something new, but instead I feel like this was a 300+ page exercise in being preached to by a pair of ivory tower dwellers who probably have wasted valuable resources (theirs and
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JP
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arete, non-fiction, metis
Scarcity influences performance in both good and bad ways. It can focus our thinking and our resolve. It forces us to economize and choose. It also takes up our mental bandwidth, often with compounding effects as we borrow and reshuffle. Chronic scarcity also reduces the opportunity for slack, which means any extra draw on time or resources can create unrecoverable backlogs and shortfalls. I found this book interesting and useful for filling a topical gap I haven't seen covered so aptly. There i ...more
Ms.Kim
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is deep. And super practical, not just for productivity at work, home, school, but in terms of relationships too. Yes, it's about brain science, but it's really about life. I can't write an adequate review at this time, but you should read this! Definitely excerptable for class discussions. Implications for teachers who are trying to figure out how to help students focus. This book is about economics, psychology, business, education, sociology, and more.
Rachel Bayles
Good concepts imperfectly presented. A bit repetitive, with some of the more promising ideas brought up in the conclusion. The evolutionary role of scarcity probably should have been included more, and the function of abundance should have been given greater play. In general, there is a bit too much of some information, and not quite enough of other types that would have made the arguments more complete.
Christine Cavalier
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Christine by: ccp6867@yahoo.com
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy Hildebrandt
I thought from the title that this was going to be a book about how to live a better life with less--less material stuff, less stress, fewer time commitments. Wrong!

This is a book about how a situation of scarcity--money, time, social connections, what have you--will cause a person to think and act in certain ways. Scarcity--real scarcity, not just voluntarily having less of something--is not a good thing, for the most part.

The authors are psychology researchers, and their book is based on many
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Bradplumer
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of provocative ideas about the psychology of poverty in this book—though many of them aren't fully developed. Let's pull out some of the more interesting bits.

The basic conceptual insight here is that being poor is a lot like being an office worker pressed for time. Imagine you’re facing a pressing deadline. You start to get frantic. You quietly put aside all sorts of other important tasks, even though you’ll pay extra for that neglect later. Everything that's not related to the deadline ge
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Nez
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rather disappointing and pointlessly repetitive.
As one reviewer has said -
The book's entire thesis can be summarised as: "People make bad decisions when they are resource-constrained, whether the resources in question are money, time, food, or something else." And there you have it! You don't need to read a book that just describes behaviour, but offers no attempt to overcome some of the more negative aspects of this behaviour.
Sve
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Main concept of the book is that scarcity (of time, money, social interaction) steals from our brainpower and makes us act less intelligently & creatively.
Useful insight, but not much more than that for me in this book.
Antonio Vena
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bello, utilissimo, a tratti illuminante.
Grassi, indaffarati, ricchi, poveri, elettori: questo saggio fa per voi (tutti).
David
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are important contributions to social / psychology here. The central concept is that when person(s) are in a state of shortage, this has not only obvious practical consequences but mental consequences which often magnify the practical problems. This can mean that when there is a shortage of manpower in an organization (or otherwise people are squeezed for time) the focus is on immediate requirements. That means prevention of potential crises is placed on the back-burner. Which means crises ...more
Marks54
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting book that develops ideas of behavioral economics to tie together a bunch of different situations around the idea of scarcity. Their model starts with the point that there are certain aspects of scarcity that cannot be ignored if they affect someone -- they capture the individual's mind. Scarcity can be involved with money, but can also involve time, social relationships, or even calories (for dieters). If someone is affected by scarcity, they adjust to it by focusing ...more
Marcus Solberg
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book brings out into the open the research that has been done on the effects of scarcity and the resulting scarcity mindset. Did you know that being strapped for cash (and thus worrying about it) takes up so much mental bandwidth that it can literally change your IQ score from intelligent to normal, or from normal to slightly mentally challenged? That's the equivalent of being severely sleep deprived!

The scarcity mindset - and it consequences - also arise for people on diets. People on die
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Mark Feltskog
While I don't want to be too didactic or overly specific about the scholarly riches in this fine book, I do want to say that if you are a teacher concerned with the effects of poverty on your students' ability to learn, then you will want to read this. Colleagues and friends of mine all over the country have complained that bringing up the issue of poverty and its effects on learning at professional development meetings for educators has earned them the dismissal, if not the ridicule, of the adm ...more
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“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes. —JACK HANDEY, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE WRITER” 5 likes
“Being poor, for example, reduces a person’s cognitive capacity more than going one full night without sleep. It is not that the poor have less bandwidth as individuals. Rather, it is that the experience of poverty reduces anyone’s bandwidth.” 2 likes
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