The more high-end an owned item, the longer the intended duration of ownership – Are Luxury and Sustainability one and the same?

Consumers who adopt a lifestyle of “slow-fashion” purchase fewer, higher-end products that will last longer in comparison to cheap products that will be quickly thrown away. In their recent research, Jennifer J. Sun (Columbia Business School), Silvia Bellezza (Columbia Business School), and Neeru Paharia (McDonough School of Business) propose that purchasing luxury products can be more sustainable than purchasing lower-end products because of their longer lifespan. Although high-end products may be more durable, consumers still prefer to allocate the same budget on multiple lower-end products instead of purchasing fewer higher-end products. Consumers in general believe that high-end products last longer, but they fail to consider the product’s durability when making a purchase. Thus, marketers of high-end brands face the challenge of how to best educate their potential consumers in discerning the high quality and durability of their goods. However, it is relevant to mention that the authors also touch upon the darker sides of luxury. In that sense, product durability alone may not lead to comprehensively sustainable business practices.

You can read more about this research here.

Are Your Fries Less Fattening than Mine?

Buying a bigger package of chocolate bars to share with your friends? Or sharing fries at a restaurant with your partner? How does that impact your health?

The popularity of share-size snacks and shared plate options in restaurants has grown and so did concerns over how food sharing may be impacting health. Nükhet Taylor (Ryerson University) and Theodore J. Noseworthy (York University) address this question in their current research. Their empirical studies suggest that food sharing reduces perceived ownership, which, in turn, leads people to mentally decouple calories from their consequence. Sharing food is not biasing caloric estimates but sharing is biasing how consumers construe the consequence of their caloric intake. Lower perceived ownership makes caloric intake seem inconsequential as food appears less fattening when it is shared.

You can read more about this research here.

SJDM Poster Award 2020: Signaling Status by Acquiring Ownership (vs. Access)

As an alternative to ownership, access-based consumption allows consumers to gain access to products by paying a usage fee. Such fees tend to be lower than purchase prices. Can access-based consumption therefore reduce perceived social inequality?

Two weeks ago, Yang Guo (University of Pittsburgh) and Cait Lamberton (University of Pennsylvania) presented their poster “Signaling Status by Acquiring Ownership (vs. Access)” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making (SJDM 2020). Their research challenge the assumption that access-based consumption reduces social inequality by highlighting the role of acquisition modes (owning vs. accessing) as status signals. Ownership maintains a premium in status signaling, and thus, access-based consumption may even intensify rather than reduce social inequality. The research by Guo and Lamberton shows that individuals have a higher subjective social rank when they own but their friend accesses similar products, compared to when acquisition modes are reversed. However, the status signaling effectiveness of acquisition modes changes as a function of payment structure (when ownership is achieved via extended payments vs. an immediate lump sum), and the framing given to the access-based alternative (when access-based consumption is framed as a rent-to-own option).

By showing that access-based consumption options may not effectively reduce perceived social inequality, Yang Guo won the Society of Judgment and Decision Making’s Student Poster Award. Congratulations!

You can find the poster here.

Evolution of Consumption: Are technological innovations changing our relationship with the goods we own?

Smartphones, online platforms, technological advances in collecting consumer data – How are these developments changing our relationships with the goods we own? In their recent article Morewedge, Monga, Palmatier, Shu, and Small (2020, you can find the article HERE) state that while technological innovations create value for consumers in many ways, they may disrupt psychological ownership–the feeling that a thing is “MINE.” This constitutes a potentially big challenge to consumers and marketers and it is a an insight that chimes in well with earlier research that suggests that considerations of (psychological) ownership are needed to understand how consumers behave in digital spheres (you can find  Kamleitner and Mitchell’s 2019 article “Your Data is my Data” HERE or download their book chapter “Personal data and (psychological) ownership” HERE).

To address the question of how psychological ownership is affected by technological developments, Morewedge, Monga, Palmatier, Shu, and Small (2020) suggest a psychological ownership framework in their article. They propose that technological innovations are driving an evolution in consumption along two major dimensions. The first dimension of change is from a model of legal ownership, in which consumers purchase and consume their own private goods, to a model of legal access, in which consumers purchase temporary access rights to goods and services. The second dimension of change is from consuming solid material goods to liquid experiential goods. The authors propose a psychological ownership framework, in which these changes and effects are organized, and examine this framework across three macro trends in marketing: (1) growth of the sharing economy, (2) digitization of goods and services, and (3) expansion of personal data. The framework predicts when technological innovations will threaten, transfer, and create opportunities to preserve psychological ownership, and it helps to identify research opportunities for marketing scholars.

This nice overarching framework aligns well and can be complemented with other recent findings on psychological ownership. For example, Ruzeviciute, Kamleitner, and Biswas (2020, you can find the article HERE) show that a sense of visceral proximity to an object, an experience that can be triggered via the object’s scent, instills psychological ownership and in turn product appeal. Perceived proximity thus enhances feelings of ownership, but we cannot touch or smell online products. Maybe the advancement of digital scent delivery technologies could thus be added to the opportunities to preserve psychological ownership for online products in the future. Another recent finding is likely to hold implications for the identified challenge. In times of online recommendation systems and omnipresent advertisements in online media, consumers are often trying out new products based on suggestions that were made to them. Yet, Kokkoris, Hoelzl, and Kamleitner (2020, you can find the article HERE) and Kirk, Peck, and Swain (2018, you can fine the article HERE) find that consumers are more likely to psychologically appropriate things they discovered autonomously and intended to discover it. Maybe toning down the recommendations and letting consumers discover offers by themselves may equally buffer against a loss of psychological ownership when it comes to purely digital access-based products.

The importance of the findings discussed above is that they show that current developments and innovations are changing consumption models and that psychological ownership is a valuable lens through which to understand and manage the consumer experience. Psychological ownership is a central theme and provides many opportunities for further research. Certainly, upcoming developments will raise important questions, to which the concept of psychological ownership can make a valuable contribution.

Using Psychological Ownership to Enhance Stewardship Behavior for Public Goods

The tragedy of the commons is a well-known problem we face: How can consumers be encouraged to take better care of public goods? In their recent research, Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Colleen P. Kirk (New York Institute of Technology), Andrea W. Luangrath (University of Iowa), and Suzanne B. Shu (Cornell University) use marketing knowledge to address issues of sustainability for public resources. The authors propose that psychological ownership over a public good, i.e. people feel as if the property is one’s own, increases the propensity for stewardship behaviors. Their research shows that individual-level behavioral intervention of increasing psychological ownership is able to affect nonowners’ behavior toward resources. These findings offer new insights into how social welfare can be improved and can benefit marketers of public good.

You can read more about this research here.

Psychological ownership and prosocial behavior

Research on the consequences of psychological ownership has mostly focused on its effects on the relationship with a specific target of ownership. But could it be that psychological ownership also has carry-over effects on domains unrelated to the specific target of ownership? A new research by Ata Jami (Northwestern University), Maryam Kouchaki (Northwestern University), and Francesca Gino (Harvard University) examines this question. Specifically, the authors propose that psychological ownership increases prosocial behavior behavior because it boosts people’s self-esteem and therefore makes them more willing to help out. They also identify materialism and mine-me sensitivity as moderators of this effect. This research suggests that psychological ownership besides having profound implications on our relationships with possessions can also affect behavior in unrelated domains, such as altruistic behavior.

You can read more about this research here.

Smell and psychological ownership

A recent research reveals a novel antecedent of psychological ownership: smell. Ruta Ruzeviciute (University of Amsterdam), Bernadette Kamleitner (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business) and Dipayan Biswas (University of South Florida) examined the effect of scented advertising on product appeal. They found that scented as opposed to non-scented advertising increases product appeal. Interestingly, the authors found that the mechanism accounting for this effect is a sense of proximity induced by scent, which in turn increases psychological ownership. In other words, when people smell a scented (vs. non-scented) ad, they like the advertised product more because they experience it as being closer to them and more ‘theirs’. These findings add to the literature on proximity as an antecedent of psychological ownership implying that it is not only through direct contact and touch that people can experience psychological ownership, as prior research has shown; smell can also induce psychological ownership through its ability to represent the essence of an object that is not physically present.

You can read more about this research here.

Does object valence moderate the self-ownership effect?

The self-ownership effect is well-documented in the literature: Objects that are owned by the self are categorized faster than objects owned by others. This effect has been repeatedly shown indicating that the self is a very powerful category that influences memory and information processing. However, not much is known about boundary conditions of this effect and more specifically if valence of the objects plays a role. Prior research has mostly used abstract geometric shapes. But what about objects that differ in their desirability? Does the self-ownership effect hold for all self-owned objects or only for those with positive valence? This is the question that Marius Golubickis (University of Aberdeen, UK; University of Toronto, Canada), Nerissa S. P. Ho (University of York, UK), Johanna K. Falbén (University of Aberdeen), Carlotta L. Schwertel (University of Aberdeen), Alessia Maiuri (University of Aberdeen), Dagmara Dublas (University of Aberdeen), William A. Cunningham (University of Toronto, Canada), and C. Neil Macrae (University of Aberdeen) addressed in their research. Their results show that object desirability does play a role and that the effect of ownership is moderated by pre-existing object properties. That is, the effect holds only when desirable (vs. undesirable) objects are owned by the self and is reversed for objects owned by others. These findings offer new insights into the self-ownership effect and the moderating role of valence.

You can read more about this research here.

“Inclusion by Division” – A short film exploring the interplay between boundaries and ownership

In these hard times, films have become loyal companions in many people’s lives, which have been radically altered by social distancing. Our blog is taking this opportunity to present today a short film that explores the interplay between boundaries and ownership. The film is inspired by scenes from everyday life that all of us have repeatedly experienced: For example, arriving at a doctor’s office and having to wait for some time. How do you decide where to sit? Or how do you decide whether to sit or stand in the first place?

Situations like this and the ensuing questions about the usage of shared space inspired the research behind the film “Inclusion by Division: When Boundaries Turn No Man’s Land into Some Man’s Land” by Renato Regis, Bernadette Kamleitner, Monika Koller (WU Vienna) and Carina Thürridl (University of Amsterdam). By means of interviews and a small scale experiment, the researchers shed light on how people use and create visual boundaries in space to demark their territory in social occasions. The film was presented at the film festival of ACR (Association for Consumer Research) 2019 conference in Atlanta.

This work proposes that visual boundaries facilitate the (temporary) appropriation and ownership of restricted spaces, helping people within them to protect their (temporarily owned) space and people outside to identify and reduce empty spaces. Seemingly, the simple addition of small boundaries in the environment can allow for inclusion and curb space-consuming by reducing territorial behaviors.

You can watch the 10-minute film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex7TzfcGSTI

Stay home and enjoy!

Psychological ownership @ SCP 2020

At the upcoming Society for Consumer Psychology (SCP) conference in Huntington Beach, CA, there will be a session dedicated to the topic of psychological ownership. The session is called “Experiencing ‘MINENESS’: Extensions of Psychological Ownership in New Consumer Contexts” and is chaired by Ipek Demirdag, University of California Los Angeles. According to the conference website, it includes the following talks: “Creating Ownership Where Ownership Does not Exist: Psychological Ownership Increases Enjoyment in Sharing Economy” (Demirdag and Shu); “Virtual Touch Facilitates Psychological Ownership of Products in Virtual Reality” (Luangrath, Peck, Hedgcock, and Xu); “‘It Can (Cannot) Be Mine’: How a Person in a Photo Impacts the Viewer’s Perception of a New Experiential Product” (Lu, Peck, and Barfield); and “Psychology of Heritage: The Endowment Effect for Extraordinary Goods” (Christensen and Shu). The session will take place on Saturday 7 March from 9:10 to 10:30 am at Salon F of Hyatt Regency Hotel in Huntington Beach, CA. If you are attending the conference, don’t forget to mark your calendars. We are excited to hear more about current developments in psychological ownership research!