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.

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.

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.

Who should you entrust with your data? – Your selfish or your prosocial friend?

We frequently share personal data with companies when using online services. Oftentimes, these data not only include information about ourselves, but also information we hold about others, for example friends and family. In their recent research, Joris Demmers, Andrea N. Weihrauch, and Frauke H. Mattison Thompson from the University of Amsterdam examine whether consumers differ in their willingness to share others’ data depending on their social value orientation. Their findings reveal that selfish people are less likely to share others’ data compared to prosocial people, because they feel less ownership for others’ data than prosocials do. Thus, possibly contrary to your own intuition, you might want to trust your selfish friend more than your prosocial friend when it comes to your online privacy.

Demmers et al. (2021) argue that feelings of ownership are the reason why people are more or less likely to infringe on others’ privacy. Future research should have a closer look at further explanations for why people infringe on others’ privacy by sharing their data online. When is the cost of infringing on someone else’s privacy perceived as justifiable? An even deeper understanding of why these so called interpersonal privacy infringements occur is essential to prevent possible harmful consequences of this behavior. Check out this article by Kamleitner and Mitchell (2019) to find out more about the phenomenon of interpersonal privacy infringements.

Click here to read the full article by Demmers et al. (2021).

Can psychological ownership help to mobilize people to get vaccines?

Vaccines have been crucial for dealing with infectious diseases. However, overcoming vaccine hesitancy remains challenging. In their article, Hengchen Dai (Anderson School of Management, University of California) and colleagues examine whether a communication strategy using reminders impact vaccine intentions. They report data from two sequential large-scale randomized controlled trials that investigate whether nudging people to get vaccinated can improve the uptake of vaccines. The authors randomized whether participants received text-message-based reminders or not and assessed whether they subsequently scheduled an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine and eventually obtained the vaccine. In the first reminder the authors varied whether the reminder was designed to induce feelings of psychological ownership over the vaccine. Reminders indicated that the vaccine had ‘just been made available for you’ and encouraged participants to ‘claim your dose’. The results reveal that text-based reminders designed to overcome barriers can effectively encourage vaccinations. The effects are heightened when the reminders leverage psychological ownership, making people feel that a dose of the vaccine belongs to them. The research of Hengchen Dai and colleagues thus provide valuable insights into how vaccine uptake can be maximized and highlight the value of inducing feelings of ownership.

You can read more about this research here.

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.

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.

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.

So happy that it’s mine!

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! PO emotions