Gita Johar

From Having to Behaving

Coauthor(s): Liad Weiss.

Can the objects we own control us by "imposing" their characteristics on our behavior? The current research demonstrates they can. It proposes that under some conditions, people include owned objects in the category "self," but exclude non-owned objects from this category. Consequently, people's behavior is consistent with characteristics of objects when they own them, but opposite to these characteristics when they do not. Two experiments examined participants' likelihood of cheating in order to maximize profit in a trivia game after trying on a set of headphones, described as high or moderate on fidelity. Results show that, when participants were assigned to own the set, describing its fidelity as high (vs. moderate) yielded less cheating (i.e., greater fidelity). Conversely, when participants were assigned not to own the set, describing its fidelity as high yielded more cheating (i.e., lower fidelity). These results indicate that things we own can ironically end-up "owning" us.

Source: Working Paper
Exact Citation:
Weiss, Liad, and Gita Johar. "From Having to Behaving." Working Paper, Columbia Business School, February 18, 2011.
Date: 18 2 2011