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!
Can experiencing positive affect during consumption make consumers feel that a brand is ‘theirs’? A recently published paper by Carina Thürridl (University of Amsterdam), Bernadette Kamleitner (WU Vienna), Ruta Ruzeviciute (University of Amsterdam), Sophie Süssenbach (WU Vienna), and Stephan Dickert (Queen Mary University London) answers that yes, it can! Among the authors of this paper, the readers of this blog can recognize many researchers who have been associated for long with the current blog as contributors. This team of researchers examined the role that positive affect may play in the development of psychological ownership. Across various studies with various product categories and real as well as fictitious brands, they found that experiencing positive affect during consumption induces stronger feelings of psychological ownership for a brand. They also found that this effect is stronger when a brand has an affective positioning in the first place. You can learn more about this research by having a look at the cartoon-style summary below. And if this triggers your curiosity further, you can read the complete article here. Don’t forget: for a maximum sense of psychological ownership, make sure you read it when being in a good mood!
Cat videos may rule the internet, but dogs possess mastery of their owners’ hearts – at least if spending is any guide.
A survey of pet owners found that they spent an average of US$2,883 in 2016 on 22 “common expenses” for their dogs, compared with $1,926 for cats, based on an analysis of the data collected for the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. The extra money went primarily toward vet visits and kennel boarding, but dog owners also spent more on treats, grooming and toys.
My new paper, “Dogs Have Masters, Cats Have Staff,” shines some light on why.
A growing market
Americans are spending more on pet care as an increasing share of U.S. households own an animal.
And almost half of households own a dog, while just 38 percent have a cat. Generational trends suggest this divergence is likely to grow, as millennials are more likely to adopt a canine, while baby boomers tend to be cat lovers.
This is resulting in a growing market for pet-related products and services, which hit an estimated $72 billion in 2018, up from $46 billion a decade earlier.
A willingness to pay
One reason suggested was that dog owners had stronger bonds to their pets, which prompted them to spend more on things like veterinary care.
My research uncovered a key factor indicating why dog owners feel more attached to their pets: Dogs are famously more compliant than cats. When owners feel in control of their pets, strong feelings of psychological ownership and emotional attachment develop. And pet owners want to be masters – not servants.
Like other marketing researchers, my work uses “willingness to pay” as an indicator of the economic, rather than emotional, value owners place on their pets. It shows – and compares – how much pet owners would pay to save their animal’s life.
Who’s in control?
So I carried out three online experiments to explore the role of psychological ownership in these valuations.
In the first experiment, I asked dog or cat owners to write about their pet’s behavior so I could measure their feelings of control and psychological ownership. Participants then imagined their pet became ill and indicated the most they would be willing to pay for a life-saving surgery.
Dog owners, on average, said they would pay $10,689 to save the life of their pet, whereas cat owners offered less than half that. At the same time, dog owners tended to perceive more control and psychological ownership over their pets, suggesting this might be the reason for the difference in spending.
Of course, correlation is not causation. So in a second experiment, I asked participants how much they would be willing to pay to save their animal’s life after I had disturbed their sense of ownership. I did this by asking participants to imagine their pet’s behavior was a result of training it received from a previous owner.
As expected, disrupting their feelings of ownership eliminated the difference in valuation between dogs and cats.
Since pet owners like to control their animals, and since cats are less controllable than dogs, the third experiment went straight to the point: Does the owner value the dog or cat for its own sake or for its compliant behavior?
To find out, I again asked survey respondents to describe how much they’d be willing to pay to save their pet’s life, but this time I randomly assigned one of four scenarios: Participants were told they either own a dog, a cat, a dog that behaves like a cat, or a cat that behaves like a dog.
Participants reported they would pay $4,270 to save the life of their dog, but only $2,462 for their cat. However, this pattern was reversed when the pet’s behavior changed, with dog-behaving cats valued at $3,636, but cat-behaving dogs only $2,372.
These results clearly show that the animal’s behavior is what makes people willing to pay.
Master or servant
These findings establish that psychological ownership is a driving factor in dog owners’ higher valuations.
People feel ownership because they perceive that they can control their pets’ behavior. This research even distinguishes the type of control that probably most stimulates ownership feelings: It’s not just physical control, such as being able to pick up an animal or drag it by a leash. Rather, it’s the animal’s voluntary compliance with its owner’s wishes.
No matter how cute and cuddly your kitties may be, they can’t compete with dogs when it comes to giving pet owners the sense of mastery they seek.
This article has been updated to correct how much pet owners say they spend on their cats and explain the data more completely.
Have you ever found a bar or a café on your own, without any prior information or recommendations from others? If yes, have you ever wondered what consequences the sense that this venue is ‘your’ discovery might have on your subsequent relationship with the venue? A new research by two contributors of this blog, Michail Kokkoris and Bernadette Kamleitner (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business), together with Erik Hoelzl (University of Cologne), examines this question and provides novel insights into service marketing. A series of studies including various methodologies (field study, representative survey, online and lab experiments) and various service domains (cafés, bars, restaurants) provides evidence that the way a venue is first found has an impact on customers’ attitudes and behaviors towards this venue. Specifically, when customers have the sense that they discovered a venue on their own (rather than assisted by some information or others’ recommendations), they report stronger bonds with the venue in terms of self-connection, emotional attachment, and psychological ownership. In turn, stronger customer bonds translate into higher customer loyalty. For example, a survey with a presentative sample of Viennese coffee-goers showed that customers who have discovered a venue on their own spend more money in the specific venue compared to other venues, plan to come back more often and are willing to pay more even in the case of price increases. However, this seems to hold only for discoveries with a positive outcome, that is, when the overall experience with the venue is outstanding in the first place. In short, the sense of own discovery may have some previously unacknowledged benefits for businesses – an idea that is perhaps ‘heretical’ in the era of social media, where most businesses strive for attention and visibility. Letting customers discover venues on their own and have this ‘eureka’ experience can have beneficial managerial implications. Next time you accidentally stumble on a bar that no one has talked to you about, be prepared: A long-lasting, intimate relationship between you and the bar might be just beginning!
You can read more about this research here.
People tend to recall new pieces of information that are classified as “mine” better than information that is classified as “others’”. This effect has been called self-referencing. Why is that happening? Knowledge of oneself is vast and rich in detail. Therefore, anything that is directly associated with the self is encoded in greater detail and better linked to existing categories of knowledge. This increased elaboration and organization of information that is associated with the self subsequently results in higher recall. This well-established effect has been repeatedly demonstrated in adults, but research in kids is sparse. Moreover, it remains unclear at what age the self-referencing effect first appears. This is the research gap that Emma L. Axelsson (Australian National University, Australia; Uppsala University, Sweden), Rachelle L. Dawson, Sharon Y. Yim and Tashfia Quddus (Australian National University, Australia) tried to fill with their recent research. In their study, they used the self-reference ownership paradigm with 3-year-old children and examined their retention of novel words. Specifically, children were presented with novel word-object pairings. For some of the objects they were told that they belonged to them, whereas for others they were told that they belonged to others. Immediately after this task, it was found that children recalled much better the self-referenced words than the other-referenced words. However, the difference between self-referenced and other-referenced words dissipated when children were tested 4 hours later or the next morning. The importance of these findings is that they show for the first time that toddlers already at the age of 3 have an improved memory of words classified as “mine”, although this seems to diminish over time. Apparently, the self-referencing effect is rooted in early developmental stages of humans. Take advantage of this finding and next time you want a toddler to memorize a word, make sure you pair it with “their” toy!
You can read more about this research here.
A recent study shows the relevance of psychological ownership theory in the domain of music streaming. Music streaming services have become the most popular way of consuming music nowadays. What characterizes the use of these services is a lack of legal ownership of the music that consumers listen to. But can consumers nevertheless develop feelings of psychological ownership? And what effects can that practically have? Sebastian Danckwerts and Peter Kenning (Heinrich‐Heine‐Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany) conducted a study to address these questions. The results show that consumers can indeed develop feelings of psychological ownership both of the service and the music featured. More importantly, this research also shows that music‐based psychological ownership is a predictor of users’ intention to switch from free to premium. Therefore, helping consumers develop a sense of psychological ownership may be profitable for providers of music streaming services.
You can read more about this research here.
Have you ever wondered what people value more in a creation, the idea behind it or the labor needed for its implementation – and who do they think owns the creation after all? Prior research has shown that children by the age of six begin to value ideas over labor. However, it is not clear whether the same applies also to adults. This is the question addressed by Pascal Burgmer (University of Cologne), Matthias Forstmann (Yale University) and Olga Stavrova (Tilburg University) in a paper recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. In their research, they presented participants with products that were the outcome of a collaboration between two people: the one had the idea and the other one worked in order to make this idea come true. Then, the researchers asked participants to indicate which one of the two persons, the idea giver or the laborer, contributed more to the creation of the product as well as who deserves ownership of it. Results showed that, contrary to children, adults valued labor more than ideas. This effect was replicated across different contexts, such as books, movies, recipes or business plans for start-ups. These findings provide novel insights into beliefs about ownership and the role that the distinction between ideas and labor plays in shaping these beliefs.
You can read more about this research here.