The scarcity principle
This persuasion technique is based upon the simple fact that “we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.”1' Research has demonstrated that when an item appears to be in limited supply, its scarcity acts as a compelling peripheral shortcut, causing its perceived value and subjective desirability to be greatly increased.16 As Jae Min Jung and James J. Kellaris explain, “Because valuable objects are often scarce, people tend to infer that scarce objects are valuable,” and subsequently, consumers “often infer value in a product that has limited availability or is promoted as being scarce.”17 In relation to this, when items or ideas are banned or censored, appetites for these items and ideas can become intensified due to their perceived scarcity. Even the suggestion that information is being suppressed by a certain party, therefore, augments an audience’s desire for that same data. This significantly increases persuasion toward the censored information, even if audience members initially disagreed with the suppressed position.18
The power of scarcity claims involving censorship can be located in their ability to induce psychological reactance.19 Reactance occurs when people perceive that their freedom of behavior has been removed or restricted in some fashion, which provokes individuals to reestablish those endangered liberties. In effect, people can resent being told what to think or how to act, so they may reject authoritative commands. One such reactance response includes the increased subjective attractiveness of a threatened product or limited action.2" Accordingly, if audiences are informed that freedom of information is being restricted, the appeal of the censored information, as
Figure 5.2 Recurrence Rates of Scarcity Principle Cueswell as the desire to restore access to it, both become amplified. Because of these effects, any assertion that a commodity or concept is in short supply is considered to be a case of the Scarcity Principle. Additionally, declarations that an opponent is seeking to unfairly force only one side of an issue, associated with claims that an idea or data is being censored or discriminated against by a censorial adversary, will also be deemed occurrences of this persuasive cue. The occurrence rates of Scarcity Principle cues across Evolution Wars media are presented in Figure 5.2.
Contrast, negativity and scarcity in antievolutionist media
Across the entire range of antievolutionist mass media it can be noted that the Contrast Principle and Negativity Effect and cases of Asking Questions frequently coincide. Indeed, both message variables often overlap within Darwin-skeptic media, while each occurrence of contrast can broadly be classified as either neutral/positive or negative contrast. Figure 5.3 displays the overall variety of ways in which this communicative tool is manifested in Darwin-skeptic media, where the neutral/positive variation incorporates comparisons without using manifestly critical language. These statements may still employ biased and inequitable comparisons, but they do not openly reprimand any of the contrasted constituents. Alternatively, negative contrast involves comparisons that do forcefully articulate explicit criticisms of a compared party in a manner approximating that of Apple’s “Get a Mac” advertisements. To clarify, neutral/positive contrast may state that A = 1 in comparison with B = 4 to emphasize that B represents a greater numerical value. Negative contrast, on the other hand, might also communicate that A = 1 in comparison with B = 4, but then further mention that A is promoted by unattractive, deceptive cowards. In this way the Negativity Effect is most pronounced in the latter expression of this message variable.
Figure 5.3 Darwin-Skeptic Variations of the Contrast Principle and Negativity Effect