Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?
Two researchers have dubbed this phenomenon scarcity, and they say it touches on many aspects of our lives.
“It leads you to take certain behaviors that in the short term help you to manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse,” says Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Several years ago, he and Eldar Shafir, a psychology professor at Princeton, started researching this idea. Their theory was this: When you’re really desperate for something, you can focus on it so obsessively there’s no room for anything else. The time-starved spend much of their mental energy juggling time. People with little money worry constantly about making ends meet.
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