Psychology of ownership and possession

Endowment Effects

Main researchers: Patricia Kanngiesser (PhD Student), Prof. Bruce M. Hood

Collaborators: Dr. Josep Call (MPI EVA), Dr. Laurie Santos (Yale University)

Let’s imagine I give you a cup to keep and a bit later I ask you how much money you would want if you had to sell it. Well most people would maybe sell it for 5£ or 6£. Interestingly, if you asked someone else how much they would be willing to pay for the same mug, they would probably say about 3£. This well known effect has been termed “the endowment effect” and describes the psychological bias that people overvalue things in their possession. We are studying whether young children show a similar bias by presenting children with a “swapping game” where they are given things and asked whether they would like to trade them for equivalent things, assuming that will tend to keep the things already in their possession. In addition, we are doing a very similar study with great apes to find out more about the evolutionary origins of this bias.

Creativity and Ownership

Main researchers: Patricia Kanngiesser (PhD Student), Prof. Bruce M. Hood

Collaborators: Dr. Nathalia Gjersoe (Bristol)

Property ownership is ubiquitous in every-day life. In this line of research we are investigating young children’s and adults intuitions about property ownership. For example, if you borrowed some wood from a friend and made a beautiful statue out of it, whose statue would it be? The answer to this question is not directly obvious and you and your friend might disagree about who gets to keep the final product. We are looking at how 3- and 4-year-olds and adults would decide in similar situations when their own possessions are at stake. So let’s say they use someone else’s materials to create something and now have to decide who gets to keep the final product. Do they think it belongs to the original owner? Or does it belong to the creator?

Recently, we could show that the majority of 3- and 4-year-olds think that the creator should keep the final product. The majority of adults, however, believes that the original owner of the materials should get to keep the final product. This is an interesting difference in children's and adults' reasoning about ownership that we are currently investigating further.