How Wanting and Liking Are Two Separate Things

Last Updated Aug 27, 2009 1:16 PM EDT

One simple marketing truth, that people want what they can't have, has been validated by a recent Stanford Business School study. However, the "denial experience" has its limits, the researchers found. Rejection may make people fight for what they could not easily obtain. But once the rejected get what they were chasing after, they tend to lose interest in it quickly.

"For many people, wanting and liking are two separate things that can become contradictory," according to Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "When someone is thwarted from obtaining his original desire, he, in fact, comes to find the attractiveness and appeal of his target to be diminished. Yet, perversely, he may feel he wants it even more. The thrill becomes the chase."

Surprisingly, those who were more "hot-headed" tended to be less affected by the "like lessâ€"want more syndrome." Women and those who are less emotionally charged ended up wanting something more (but liking it less) after rejection.

The academics conclude that if you are trying to sell yourself or a product, "it's good to play hard to get -- as long as it doesn't get too hard."

  • Stefan Deeran

    Stefan Deeran helps environmental nonprofits and green businesses develop and execute their new media campaigns. He also publishes The Exception magazine, a nonpartisan news platform serving his home state of Maine. You can follow him on Twitter @RStefanDeeran or via Facebook.