Special Session on Antecedents and Consequences of Psychological Ownership at ACR 2015



When: October 01-04, 2015

Where: Association for Consumer Research North America Conference 2015, New Orleans, LA

Link: www.acrwebsite.org

Session Chair: Jaeyeon Chung (PhD, Columbia Business School)


From Tragedy to Benefit of the Commons: Increasing Shared Psychological Ownership
Suzanne Shu (UCLA)
Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

Whenever resources are shared, there is a risk that individuals will fail to preserve those resources (the tragedy of the commons). In two correlational studies and one field study, we examine the antecedents of psychological ownership. Results indicate that a subtle manipulation increases ownership and behavior that preserves shared resources.

Products as Self-Evaluation Standards
Liad Weiss (University of Wisconsin – Madison)
Gita Johar (Columbia Business School)

We propose that people judge their traits relative to standards set by products, in assimilation or contrast to product traits, as determined by product ownership. For instance, subjects felt shorter when assigned to own short (versus tall) looking mug, but felt taller when assigned not to own the same mug.

The Consequences of Product Ownership: Performance Handicap in a Product-unrelated Task
Jaeyeon Chung (Columbia Business School)
Gita Johar (Columbia Business School)

When consumers experience psychological ownership to a product, they perceive traits of the product as an integral part of their self-concept. The biased self-representation in assimilation to the product traits impairs consumers’ ability to perform tasks that are product-irrelevant; but not if they perceive the tasks to be product-relevant.

Words Speak Louder: Conforming to Words More Than Consumption and the Role of Mentally Shared Ownership
Yanping Tu (University of Chicago)
Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago)

Others’ consumption choices convey two types of information to consumers: stated preference (others like it) and consumption/ownership (others already consumed/owned it). In six studies, we show that words speak louder than action—consumers conform more to other’s preferences than consumption. Mentally sharing other’s consumption underlies this effect.


“Ownership” is both a legal concept and a psychological state. Legally, ownership is recognized by society and thus protected by laws. Psychologically, ownership is a feeling that “a product is mine” (Peck and Shu 2009), even in the absence of legal ownership. When a consumer feels psychological ownership for a product, the product is often experienced as closely connected to the self (Turk et al. 2011), or as part of the self (Weiss and Johar 2013). People experience mental synthesis between the psychologically owned object and the self because they feel that the product is part of the self (Weiss and Johar 2013).

This session aims to contribute to the growing body of research on psychological ownership by exploring antecedents and consequences of this construct. Four papers explore how feeling (vs. not feeling) psychological ownership for a product affects the way people (1) behave towards and form preference for the product as well as (2) evaluate themselves and behave in product-related and product-unrelated domains.

The first paper by Shu and Peck explores factors that facilitate psychological ownership over shared resources (e.g., rental cars, hotels). Two correlational studies and one field study demonstrate that increasing psychological ownership over a shared resource can increase preservation of shared resources, and reduce the “tragedy of the commons.” The second paper by Weiss and Johar focuses on consequences of feeling product ownership for self-judgment along product-traits, such as physical dimensions (e.g., height) or brand personalities (e.g., sincerity). Two experiments show that feeling ownership (lack of ownership) for a product leads people to judge their personal traits in assimilation (contrast) to respective product traits. The experiments demonstrate downstream implications for overall self-esteem and behavior. The third paper by Chung and Johar identifies consequences of feeling product ownership for behavior in product-unrelated domains. Many products (e.g., calculator) are relevant for some domains (e.g., algebra) but not for others. Four studies show that feeling ownership over a product may impair people’s task performance when the task is portrayed as product-irrelevant compared to when it is portrayed as product-relevant. The fourth paper by Tu and Fishbach shows that people may experience feelings of ownership vicariously through others. Such implicit feelings of ownership for a product that others acquire was found to reduce an individual’s preference for that product, as if that individual already owned that product herself. This subsequently decreased their likelihood of choosing the same product.

These four papers raise several overarching research questions pertaining to the antecedents and consequences of psychological ownership. For instance, what is the interplay between shared feeling of ownership and personal feeling of ownership? What are the unique consequences and antecedents of each? Can the type of factors that induce such feelings affect the types of consequences that such feelings have for behavior? Comments and suggestions from the audiences will be sought so as to enhance the session’s quality and interactivity.