Scarcity traps

“Being poor changes your thinking about everything” -

I came across this article today, which judging by the title seems to be
dealing with material scarcity, but actually covers precisely the opposite:
how generalizing the concept of scarcity allows insights to be ported among
very different fields. The most direct non-money example (and the relevant
one for this group) is the scarcity of time. In their words: “People think
they’re in the scarcity trap because they have too little money, or too
little time. That’s (…) not exactly true, because you’re always
accomplishing the same work. You’re just accomplishing it later. (…) It’s
not that you have too little time. You have the same amount of time; you’re
just one step behind.”

They mention the tunnel vision regarding long term consequences
(essentially the present self/future self duel) and the behavior of putting
off the fires, taking any bucket of water without looking at the strings
attached. They explain how this shortsighted behavior is one of the factors
making the scarcity and debt a cyclic problem, particularly with the
example about lonely people: the very fact that we’re fighting against the
perceived scarcity makes us focus on the wrong strategies and essentially
shoot ourselves in the foot, driving us deeper into the loop.

Anyway, I recommend reading the whole thing, as there are plenty of
insights and I’m probably not explaining the ones I got well enough. In
fact, please correct any misinterpretations I might have made in the
message above!

Cheers!

Thanks for pointing this out, Waldir. I’m delighted to see the
behavioral economics of akrasia get more mainstream exposure. I found
it frustrating that they avoided all the standard terminology like
hyperbolic discounting, dynamic inconsistency, akrasia, commitment
devices, etc. But “bringing things inside the tunnel” is a good phrase
too.

(Actually “akrasia” is the odd one out in my list there. Behavioral
economists don’t use that term, only philosophers. I predict that will
change though!)

Speaking of which, let me add “bringing things inside the tunnel” to
the list at blog.beeminder.com/synonyms (ooh, and adding “preference
reversal” too)

On Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 5:16 PM, Waldir Pimenta
waldir.pimenta@gmail.com wrote:

“Being poor changes your thinking about everything” -
http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/13/being-poor-changes-your-thinking-about-everything/

I came across this article today, which judging by the title seems to be
dealing with material scarcity, but actually covers precisely the opposite:
how generalizing the concept of scarcity allows insights to be ported among
very different fields. The most direct non-money example (and the relevant
one for this group) is the scarcity of time. In their words: “People think
they’re in the scarcity trap because they have too little money, or too
little time. That’s (…) not exactly true, because you’re always
accomplishing the same work. You’re just accomplishing it later. (…) It’s
not that you have too little time. You have the same amount of time; you’re
just one step behind.”

They mention the tunnel vision regarding long term consequences (essentially
the present self/future self duel) and the behavior of putting off the
fires, taking any bucket of water without looking at the strings attached.
They explain how this shortsighted behavior is one of the factors making the
scarcity and debt a cyclic problem, particularly with the example about
lonely people: the very fact that we’re fighting against the perceived
scarcity makes us focus on the wrong strategies and essentially shoot
ourselves in the foot, driving us deeper into the loop.

Anyway, I recommend reading the whole thing, as there are plenty of insights
and I’m probably not explaining the ones I got well enough. In fact, please
correct any misinterpretations I might have made in the message above!

Cheers!


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Goal tracking + Commitment contracts == http://beeminder.com