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What is interesting about this phenomenon is that it runs counter to the scarcity principle. Countless research has shown that the more scarce a commodity is, the more desirable it becomes. This is often capitalized on in marketing ("limited edition" and so on). Thus, the last donut should actually be even more attractive than one of many donuts. So ...


This is a cultural/situational phenomenon. I know that in my parents' generation (which grew up with poverty), it is common courtesy to never take the last piece of cake/whatever. The host always has to make sure there's plenty, because 1 piece left means that people are still hungry. Nowadays most people (in my culture and generation) are not so hesitant. ...

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