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Human hoarding behavior

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While humans are not notable for hoarding behavior, it is a common response to fear, whether fear of imminent society-wide danger or simple fear of a shortage of some good. When trouble looms (such as civil unrest or natural disaster), people's first instinct is to collect foodstuffs, water, gasoline, and other essentials which they believe, rightly or wrongly, will soon be in short supply.

They also hoard money, especially if they expect deflation, in which falling prices mean that the purchasing power of money will rise. More generally, money hoarding is the accumulation of money (in the form of gold at the origin) by people who avoid to spend it or to invest it in economic projects, because of a risk aversion, or of a preference for liquidity, or of a lack of a better use for the money. A current example is the hoarding by Asiatic central banks of massive amounts of US dollars, resulting from their countries' trade surpluses, in the form of tradable US Treasury securities.

Hoarding of goods can often cause the very shortage which has been feared, and governments sometimes choose to introduce rationing in order to combat hoarding, as well as to reduce consumption and waste. However, those who have successfully hoarded the desired goods will not have to worry about the shortage, whether it was their fault or not. The compulsive collecting of objects is known as pathological or compulsive hoarding, whilst that of animals is known as animal hoarding.

With the advent of personal computers people started hoarding digital data. In 1980s they started storing megabytes of interesting texts, images and software on floppy disks. Two decades later, computer users hoard on their hard disks gigabytes of songs, movies, and software. Even though most of the content is not unique and can be easily downloaded from the Internet, many people enjoy creating large personal collections. Now, the data is slowly migrating to portable devices. For example, a 2004 UK study by Toshiba] found 60% of the owners of portable devices store between 1000 and 2000 music files on them, the equivalent of 100 music CDs [1].

On a larger scale hoarding can be a business strategy similar to monopolisation, where an individual or organization attempts to temporarily control all available supplies of a given good in order to artificially increase the price. This strategy is also known as "cornering the market". In a free market this always results in the company "cornering the market" to lose out to competitors, as the price increases other traders enter the market to capitalize on the increased price, and traders who can't afford the new price use alternate products. The collapse of the Hunt brothers empire resulted from the mistake of trying to "corner" the world silver market.

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