Ori Friedman

Name: Ori Friedman
Current Position: Associate Professor
Institute & Organization: University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology
Main Research Interests: I am interested in social cognitive development, conceptual development, and related topics. I’m especially interested in how children and adults reason about ownership of property, pretense and fiction, and people’s mental states.
Short Biography: Ori is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. He received his PhD in psychology at Boston College. In 2014, he was awarded Fellow Status by the Association for Psychological Science.
Contact Information: University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology, 200 University Ave W., Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 2V9
E-Mail: friedman@uwaterloo.ca
Website: Ori Friedman at University of Waterloo


the interview

(1) How do you define ownership in your research?

Ori Friedman: I don’t use definitions or know whether true definitions are possible. I believe that the nature of ownership is something we need to discover through research—not something that can be stipulated in advance. As an approximation, I think that I’m dealing with ownership, when a person (or group) is viewed as entitled to make a wide-range of decisions about an object or resource.

(2) How does your research relate to ownership? What are you interested in specifically?

Ori Friedman: There are several overlapping interests. First, I’m interested in whether there are basic psychological principles that govern our reasoning and decisions about ownership—e.g., principles we might draw on to decide who owns an object, or to decide what an owner may do with property. Second, I’m interested in the origins and nature of ownership—for instance, I want to know whether ownership is primarily a cultural invention, or whether it stems more naturally from more basic aspects of human psychology. Third, I’m increasingly interested in how ownership affects our thought and behavior in relation to objects—its psychological consequences.

(3) How did you first get involved with the topic and why? Are there any specific events or people from your academic or your personal life that have influenced your interest in ownership research?

Ori Friedman: As a graduate student and post-doctoral researcher, I mainly researched children’s reasoning about people’s mental states (e.g., beliefs and desires). While a post-doctoral researcher, I realized that many of the issues that made this topic fascinating applied equally to children’s reasoning about ownership. At the time, investigation of children’s understanding of mental states was a major topic in developmental psychology. But as far as I knew, there was no research on children’s reasoning about ownership (though I later found that some work did exist). So I felt that it would be worthwhile to stud children’s reasoning about ownership, though I only got around to actually conducting my first studies on this two years later, after joining my current institution, the University of Waterloo.

(4) What surprises you about ownership as a human phenomenon?

Ori Friedman: The variety of topics that ownership intersects with, or that have to be considered in understanding ownership. Every time I start a new project on ownership, I discover that I have to familiarize myself with some new area of psychology, or with concepts from some other discipline (e.g., legal theory, consumer research, political philosophy).

(5) In Your Opinion:

  • What is the most influential article or piece of writing relevant to the phenomenon of ownership? I’m torn between Locke’s “Of Property” and either of Russell Belk’s papers “Possessions and the Extended Self” and “The ineluctable mysteries of possessions”.
  • What is your favorite personal possession? I say some old sketchbooks, but my wife says it’s my smartphone.
  • Would you share it? The sketchbooks, no; the smartphone, yes.
  • Which of your own contributions are you most proud of? Perhaps, “Artifacts and natural kinds: Children’s judgments about whether objects are owned”.

(6) What do you think are the most promising avenues of ownership research in the future? Where do you see the field of ownership in the future?

Ori Friedman: I think I’m most interested in seeing research in ownership spread to research areas where it is still relatively unstudied—for instance, I’ll be fascinated to see what can be learned about ownership from neuropsychology (particularly studies of patients with brain lesions of other neurological conditions) and clinical psychology. I’m also excited about the prospect of discoveries arising from cross-talk from researchers in different disciplines.

Editor’s note: For references see Links & Resources

One thought on “Ori Friedman

  1. Pingback: May We Introduce: Ori Friedman | The Science of Ownership

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