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.

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.

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.

Do you think of borrowed money as ‘your money’?

If you borrow money from someone, it is, by definition, money that is available for you to use but owned by someone else. Despite this feature of borrowed money, Eesha Sharma (Dartmouth College), Stephanie Tully (Stanford University) and Cynthia Cryder (Washington University in St. Louis) find in their recent research that consumers can experience feelings of psychological ownership of borrowed money. In their current article, the authors establish the concept of psychological ownership of borrowed money and investigates its implications for consumer borrowing. They observe that consumers experience psychological ownership to differing degrees: Consumers might think of a credit as belonging to the bank that lent it or rather as their own money, similar to using their cash. This variation predicts which consumers are more willing to use borrowed money. The authors point out that differences in psychological ownership do not merely reflect a misunderstanding that borrowed funds must be repaid, but psychological ownership of borrowed money reflects the extent to which consumers subjectively feel that borrowed money is their own.

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.

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.