January 12th, 2012 by Judith Aquino

Marketers: if you want men to spend more, convince them that there are fewer women to go around. Suggesting to men that women are scarce leads them to become impulsive, save less, and increase borrowing, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

To test their theory, researchers asked participants to read news articles that described their local population as having more men or more women. They were then asked to indicate how much money they would save each month from a paycheck, as well as how much they would borrow with credit cards for immediate purchases. After reading the articles that stated women were scarce, the savings rates for men decreased by 42 percent. Men were also willing to borrow 84 percent more money each month.

In a second study, the participants saw photos that either had more men, more women, or were neutral. After looking at the photographs, participants were asked to choose between receiving some money tomorrow or a larger amount in a month. After looking at photos that showed fewer women, men were much more likely to take an immediate $20 rather than wait for $30 in a month.

This behavior, according to Vladas Griskevicius, an assistant professor of marketing at the Carlson School and the lead author of the study, is comparable to the behavior male animals display females are scarce.

“They compete more for access to mates,” said Griskevicius in a statement. “How do humans compete for access to mates? What you find across cultures is that men often do it through money, through status and through products.”

On the other hand, when women read the articles about men outnumbering women, it did not appear to affect their financial choices, but they did indicate that they expected men to spend more money on gifts and engagement rings.

From a marketer’s perspective, if this study’s findings are true, it’s an interesting clue to what motivates men to crack open their wallets. Don’t just show men a beautiful woman with a product, convince them that unless they buy this product, she’ll choose someone else.

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