News from the World of Ownership

We acknowledge that it has been rather quiet here on The Science of Ownership in the past couple of weeks. Fortunately, we are able to counteract this inactivity today by providing our readers with two fantastic updates:

(1) Special Section on Ownership in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics

The Special Section on Ownership in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics has finally been published with the October 2015 issue (Volume 58). For the interested reader we strongly recommend a peak into the articles, which are online at:

A great introduction to the topic co-authored by the editors of this special section Bernadette Kamleitner and Stephan Dickert can be found here:

(2) Special Session on Psychological Ownership at ACR 2015

Together with hundreds of consumer researchers from across the globe, we traveled to the ACR Association for Consumer Research North America Conference 2015 in the beginning of October this year. Apart from enjoying New Orleans, LA, where the conference was held, we listened to lots of great presentations and talked to amazing researchers, which made it really hard to leave afterwards.

What got us really excited, though, was the chance to witness that research on psychological ownership in the consumer behavior domain is getting more visible and popular by the day. At this year’s conference, our US colleagues organized yet another symposium that focused on this topic. The special session, which was chaired by Jaeyeon Chung from Columbia Business School, particularly focused on the “Antecedents and Consequences of Psychological Ownership” and included work from names that are no strangers to the field: Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin – Madison), Suzanne Shu (UCLA), Liad Weiss (University of Wisconsin – Madison), Gita Johar (Columbia Business School), Jaeyeon Chung (Columbia Business School), Yanping Tu (University of Chicago) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago). We were lucky to be able to publish an outline of the special session including an introduction to the session as well as short abstracts of the individual talks. Thank you, Jaeyeon, for helping us out and thank you to the others who agreed to make this information available here on The Science of Ownership.

You can find all information about the special session at here.


The Two Faces of Ownership: Special Section on (Psychological) Ownership and Economic Decisions has arrived!

By Bernadette Kamleitner & Stephan Dickert

As the observant readers of this ownership blog are bound to know, many aspects of our daily decisions and routines revolve around questions related to ownership. Sometimes we pay close attention to what is “ours”, other times we have little awareness of and care for whose possession something is, or we freely share consumption goods (such as food), services (e.g., giving someone a lift), and advice. But how can we make progress on a phenomenon that is enmeshed in different approaches and frameworks, we hear you ask… Fret not, because just in time another special section on Psychological Ownership has arrived to save the day and highlight some facets of the phenomenon!

We gladly announce that all the proofs of our special section have cleared the editing stage and that the contributions are now available online (; the journey that we as a team started in 2013, with the workshop on psychological ownership, has made another step forward towards providing us with a better understanding of the multifaceted influences of ownership.

The special section consists of five exciting papers and a short introduction to the topic by us (A big thank you to all contributors, reviewers, and in particular Ofer Azar for making this special section possible!). What we set out to do is to highlight the two faces of ownership, the legal and the psychological, and their various links to an explicitly varied set of economic decisions in an explicitly varied set of contexts. That is precisely what we got. Jointly the contributions manage to sketch large stretches of the vast potential scope of ownership research. The contributions help understand how legal ownership over something changes one’s attitude and treatment of one’s possessions (e.g., Arora, Bert, Podesta & Krantz, 2015), how ownership history (Wang, Ong, and Tang (2015) and congruence between oneself and the consumption good can change how much we value owning something (Thomas, Yeh, and Jewell, 2015), how psychological ownership can be a result of how financial decisions are made (Kirk, McSherry, & Swain, 2015), and whether being ostracized influences psychological ownership (Walasek, Matthews, & Rakow, 2015).

Given the pervasiveness of ownership as a phenomenon, these insights may help us to identify possible implications of changes to everyday life. And changes we see. In a time characterized by demographic change and social mobility, people are confronted with a world in which things constantly speed up: Potential de-individualization can be an ailment resulting from the speed at which our society plows forward. (Psychological) possessions could and are used to act as an antidote that is sometimes within a moment’s reach. It takes less than a second to post something on the internet and make it instantly available around the globe. It also takes less than a minute to order and potentially download nearly any digital product. For some goods, the notion of ownership history has taken on a whole new meaning.

The speed-up is not only digital, with 3D printers up and coming people not only get others to produce their customized designs, they may be able to produce them themselves. Simultaneously, whatever we make is becoming more accessible to the rest of the world than ever before. Products are on the verge of turning into agents. Many products potentially know more about us—and themselves—than we. What does this mean for the legal and the psychological face of ownership? At the recent opening symposium of SCP Vienna questions such as these have been raised. In particular, Russ Belk opened up a debate of the implications of objects becoming human like. What it means to call something our “own” may change rapidly in the future. The more we understand about it now, the better equipped we will be to use it as a key to unlocking implications of trends that engulf us as we speak.

Editor’s note:

  • For references to the articles mentioned in this post, please visit our Links & Resources Section