“Nature is mine”: How can we measure psychological ownership of nature?

The concept of psychological ownership of nature, or the feeling that nature is “mine” or “ours,” has gained significant attention in recent years as a way to encourage pro-environmental behaviors. However, until now, there has been a lack of psychometrically validated measures to assess this construct accurately, limiting its potential impact in research and practical applications.

Xiongzhi Wang, Kelly S. Fielding, and Angela J. Dean address this gap in their recent paper (published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology) by developing and validating scales to measure individual and collective psychological ownership of nature, using a representative sample of Australian adults.

Different to other approaches measuring feelings of psychological ownership, their measure did not capture the associated attributes of ownership feelings toward nature (e.g., control, intimate familiarity), but rather directly assessed the ownership core (i.e., “mine-ness/our-ness”). The authors developed and validated scales of both individual (“Nature is mine”) and collective psychological ownership of nature (“Nature is ours”). Their results also indicate that these two forms of psychological ownership may have different affects on pro-environmental behaviors, as collective psychological ownership was more strongly associated with environmental concern and environmental self-identity and individual psychological ownership was more strongly associated with territoriality and dominionistic beliefs toward nature. Both scales offer a new tool for researchers interested in understanding psychological ownership and promoting pro-environmental behaviors.

You can read more about the research of Wang, Fielding, & Dean (2023) here.