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Possession, feelings of ownership and the endowment effect


  • Jochen Reb
  • Terry Connolly


Research in judgment and decision making generally ignores the distinction between factual and subjective feelings of ownership, tacitly assuming that the two correspond closely. The present research suggests that this assumption might be usefully reexamined. In two experiments on the endowment effect we examine the role of subjective ownership by independently manipulating factual ownership (i.e., what participants were told about ownership) and physical possession of an object. This allowed us to disentangle the effects of these two factors, which are typically confounded. We found a significant effect of possession, but not of factual ownership, on monetary valuation of the object. Moreover, this effect was mediated by participants' feelings of ownership, which were enhanced by the physical possession of the object. Thus, the endowment effect did not rely on factual ownership per se but was the result of subjective feelings of ownership induced by possession of the object. It is these feelings of ownership that appeared to lead individuals to include the object into their endowment and to shift their reference point accordingly. Potential implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Jochen Reb & Terry Connolly, 2007. "Possession, feelings of ownership and the endowment effect," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, pages 107-114, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:2:y:2007:i::p:107-114

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Belk, Russell W, 1988. " Possessions and the Extended Self," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(2), pages 139-168, September.
    2. Carmon, Ziv & Ariely, Dan, 2000. " Focusing on the Forgone: How Value Can Appear So Different to Buyers and Sellers," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(3), pages 360-370, December.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
    5. Arkes, Hal R. & Blumer, Catherine, 1985. "The psychology of sunk cost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 124-140, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Korenok, Oleg & Millner, Edward & Razzolini, Laura, 2017. "Feelings of ownership in dictator games," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 145-151.
    2. Nikolaus Franke & Martin Schreier & Ulrike Kaiser, 2010. "The "I Designed It Myself" Effect in Mass Customization," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 125-140, January.
    3. repec:pkk:meb017:195-204 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Nash, Jane Gradwohl & Rosenthal, Robert A., 2014. "An investigation of the endowment effect in the context of a college housing lottery," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 74-82.
    5. Arora, Poonam & Bert, Federico & Podesta, Guillermo & Krantz, David H., 2015. "Ownership effect in the wild: Influence of land ownership on agribusiness goals and decisions in the Argentine Pampas," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 162-170.
    6. Walasek, Lukasz & Matthews, William J & Rakow, Tim, 2015. "The need to belong and the value of belongings: Does ostracism change the subjective value of personal possessions?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 195-204.
    7. Gottlieb, Daniel, 2014. "Imperfect memory and choice under risk," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 127-158.
    8. Martinez, Luis F. & Zeelenberg, Marcel & Rijsman, John B., 2011. "Regret, disappointment and the endowment effect," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 962-968.
    9. Da Silva, Sergio & Moreira, Bruno & Da Costa Jr, Newton, 2014. "Preschoolers and the Endowment Effect," MPRA Paper 60568, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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