What motivates us to feel ownership over a target?

People experience feelings of ownership not only for physical goods (i.e. products they can touch and see), but also for digital goods, ideas, designs, other people, or public goods, like organisations.

But what motivates us to feel ownership over those different targets? In a review article on psychological ownership in marketing and consumer research, Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Andrea W. Luangrath (University of Iowa) are discussing the underlying motivations behind psychological ownership, as well as considering its antecedents and consequences. As key motives, they are discussing (1) effectance motivation, (2) signaling self-identity, (3) feeling at home, and (4) need for stimulation. If a person feels psychological ownership of a target, more than one motive can be active, e.g. if you experience psychological ownership of a parking space (My parking space) or a book (My edition of ‘The old man and the sea’) or a pet (My black cat).

You can find more about the research of Peck and Luangrath (2023) here.

Can’t touch this! How digitalization affects psychological appropriation

The complex relationship between digitalization and psychological appropriation is the topic of a recent work by Bernadette Kamleitner and Michail Kokkoris published in the latest edition of The Routledge Handbook of Digital Consumption (edited by Rosa Llamas and Russell Belk). In their work, the authors propose that digitalization has a profound psychological impact in that it blurs numerous perceptual and conceptual boundaries. As a consequence of this “Big Blur”, people struggle to “grasp” blurred entities and concepts, because the ability to grasp the essence of things is a deep-seated human need. Therefore, digital consumers respond to diminished graspability by craving for psychological ownership. The authors review various contemporary market trends that support this proposition, such as the use of “my” claims in marketing, regionality, voluntary simplicity and minimalism. At the same time, digitalization is also used to combat this lack of graspability. Digital market offerings promise consumers to help them psychologically appropriate entities and concepts. However, what appears to be a promise of graspability in the digital world is often a mere façade (e.g., user-friendly interfaces) that cannot adequately satisfy consumers’ appropriation needs and deliver what it promises. This inevitably leads to a vicious circle, where digitalization simultaneously erodes and fuels the desire for psychological appropriation.

You can read the full chapter here.

“Why is it interesting to study the science of ownership?” – Bernadette Kamleitner in conversation with Ori Friedman

Feelings of possession and ownership affect our lives all the time: Ownership can make us like things more, it can make us feel responsible and governs our behaviour.

As part of the opening of the POP Library at the WU Vienna, Bernadette Kamleitner spoke with Ori Friedman about the science of ownership. They discuss why it is so exciting to study the science of ownership and how it affects us. Find out more about the science of ownership in the video below.

Do you already own virtual land in the Metaverse?

Well, you could. If you spent some money, you could be the owner of a Metaverse real estate. With its augmented and virtual reality technologies, the Metaverse extends your physical world. But can you actually own something in an extended reality, a virtual space, like the Metaverse? And how do such forms of digital consumption change our understanding of possessions and ownership?

Russell Belk (York University), Mariam Humayun (University of Ottawa) and Myriam Brouard (University of Ottawa) took a closer look at the Metaverse, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), cryptocurrencies and other forms of digital and virtual consumption. In their recent article, they discuss problems that arise as metaverses evolve and change, as well as consequences of fractional ownership and fractional property rights. For instance, if you own a real-world item (e.g., a painting) you have the right to modify it (e.g., cut it up), to sell it to someone else, or to dispose of it. But ownership of virtual objects is complicated, and in some ways different from ownership of physical objects, as Belk, Humayun, and Brouard (2022) explain. By buying an NFT, you usually do not gain the right to manipulate it, nor do you usually gain any right (like copyright or intellectual property rights) to the original art object (whether it be physical or digital). Will our understanding of ownership change in light of these developments?

You can find more about the research of Belk, Humayun, and Brouard (2022) here.

“Where do you see the role of possession, ownership and property in societal issues?” – Bernadette Kamleitner in conversation with Russell Belk

Sometimes we give away the things we love – the things we treasure the most and that define who we are. How do people cope with this loss when they move to another city, lose their goods due to a natural disaster or simply exchange all their physical goods, like a CD, with digital ones?

As part of the opening of the POP Library at the WU Vienna, Bernadette Kamleitner spoke with Russell Belk about the science of ownership. They discuss the role of ownership in society and people’s reaction to losing their most valuable possessions. Find out more about the science of ownership in the video below.

How to promote psychological ownership for a shared resource?

Shared resources, such as safe water infrastructure, have the potential to positively affect the environment and people’s health. In recent decades, there has been increased efforts around the world to install new shared safe water infrastructure. However, ensuring such infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries remains a challenge, often due to negligent operation and maintenance. One possible solution to ensure long-term functionality and access would be the participation of communities in planning, installing, and managing the shared resources. In their article, Benjamin Ambühl, Bal Mukunda Kunwar, Ariane Schertenleib, Sara J. Marks,  and Jennifer Inauen (Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, University of Bern) address this issue by investigating the effects of a participatory intervention on the acceptance, use, and management of community-based safe water infrastructure in rural Nepal and the mediating role of psychological ownership. The authors conducted a nonrandomized cluster-based controlled trial with pre–post intervention assessment in 33 villages in rural Nepal. Their results reveal that participatory intervention activities, such as influence in decision-making or contributing materials and labour, favourably affected self-reported outcomes and use of the water supply infrastructure but not observed functionality or drinking water quality. Certain participatory activities related to increased psychological ownership, such as involvement in decision-making, attending meetings, and contributing materials. Concerning the mediating role of psychological ownership, the study reveal that the effects of some forms of participation on outcomes were mediated by psychological ownership whereas others were not. By examining community managed systems and environments, the authors extend previous research on the effect of psychological ownership on stewardship of public goods (see research by Peck et al., 2021).

You can find more about this research here.

Why is the topic of ownership worth studying?

The concepts of possession, ownership and property play a fundamental role for human behaviour, social interactions and economic transactions. There are numerous resources from various disciplines dealing with exciting and surprising findings on ownership, which are now bundled and curated in the new special POP collection.

To get a first impression of the physical side of the POP (Possession, Ownership & Property) collection and to find out why world-leading experts (Floyd Rudmin, Russ Belk, Ori Friedman, Michael Heller, Jennifer Inauen, Carey Morewedge, Joann Peck, Jon Pierce, and Federico Rossano) think that ownership is an interesting topic to study and what research finding on the issue surprised them the most watch this video.

We present: The POP collection

We are happy to announce the opening of the POP (Possession, Ownership & Property) collection at WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business), which was initiated and curated by the Institute for Marketing & Consumer Research (m.core).

The POP collection is an evolving collection. It builds on a donation of an abundance of multi-disciplinary titles by Professor Floyd Rudmin (University of Tromsø), a prominent pioneer in the field.

Thank you, Floyd!

The printed books can be found in the WU Library. The digital collection contains bibliographical information on these books as well as numerous other important contributions in this field.

Search the digital collection according to your interests: HERE you find the link to the Possession, Ownership, Property Collection – Vienna University of Economics and Business.

New update? Maybe later! Procrastinating in adopting digital product updates

Consumers who own digital products, such as mobile apps or software, are frequently offered updates to integrate new features. Although delaying an update may lead to non-optimized performance and privacy or security risks, users often hesitate to install available updates. In their current research, Yazhen Xiao (University of Tennesse) and Jelena Spanjol (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) introduce the concept of adoption procrastination and examine why consumers delay adopting what appear to be improvements to already used digital products. The authors take a closer look at the relationship between perceived change, annoyance, anticipated inaction regret and adoption procrastination, as well as the role of perceived benefit and psychological ownership of the digital product. The empirical studies show that users are more likely to be annoyed with an app update that makes a major change to the app and, hence, procrastinate about adoption. As psychological ownership is related to users’ desire to control the product’s status quo, users are more annoyed with changes introduced with an update. These findings are particularly relevant as a longer gap between adoption intention and implementation can slow down market acceptance and in turn negatively influences the product’s success. In order to reduce user procrastination, it is necessary to understand that consumers are often psychologically bonded with digital products. As a result, Xiao and Spanjol recommend that digital product marketers need to reduce users’ sense of loss that accompanies adopting a new digital product version.

You can read more about this research here.

Have you ever felt like your Airbnb hosts’ property is yours? Psychological Ownership and P2P services

In their current research, Giovanni Pino (University of Chieti-Pescara), Marta Nieto-García (Portsmouth Business School) and Carol X. Zhang (Nottingham Business School) take a closer look at psychological ownership in the context of peer-to-peer (P2P) services. P2P services, like AirBnB or carpooling, do not involve ownership transfer; consumers can make use of resources without the responsibility associated with ownership. However, consumers still may experience psychological ownership toward their service providers’ resources, such as their house or car. The research of Pino and colleagues demonstrates that (1) customer–service provider identification engenders a sense of psychological ownership toward a P2P service setting, (2) psychological ownership, in turn, fosters customer attitudinal and behavioral loyalty, and, (3) cooperative interactions between customers and service providers moderate the effect that customer–service provider identification exerts on customer loyalty via psychological ownership. Thus, the consumers’ feeling of psychological ownership is relevant to P2P services as it might result in a favourable disposition toward a certain service and motivates consumers to use the same service again in the future. A lack of connection might not only result in limited interest in reusing the resources but, in some cases, might even promote misbehaviour.

You can read more about this research here.