Are you what you have? : The role of motivation and cultural value congruency on the mere ownership effect

  • Pik Ying CHAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Previous research on mere ownership effect has shown that merely possessing an object results in enhanced evaluation of that object (Beggan, 1992), when compared with unowned (Belk, 1988; Dittmar, 1992; Prelinger, 1959) or others-owned object (Nesselroade et al., 1999). Since people see their possessions as an extension of their self-identities (Belk, 1988), it is suggested that making self-enhancing judgments about possessions would satisfy owners' desires to maintain positive self-image.

Extending the traditional mere ownership effect, this thesis examined whether people perceive having endowed the positive features of the product upon acquiring its ownership prior to its actual use, using essential oil products as stimuli objects.

It is hypothesized that the proposed mere ownership effect would occur only when participants are motivated to self-enhance; and when the functional value of the owned object is congruent to the participants' own cultural value.

A cross-cultural experiment was conducted in the United States and Hong Kong, with 93 American students and 99 Hong Kong students. Participants in both cultural groups were presented an essential oil product which was claimed to have a therapeutic function of enhancing one's holistic mode of thinking. Given that holistic thinking ability is valued in Asian culture compared to American culture, the oil's functional value is congruent to the cultural value of the Hong Kong participants relative to the American participants.

Results showed that HK participants, who are motivated to enhance their holistic thinking ability, reported higher self-perceived efficacy in holistic thinking once they merely owned the "holistic" essential oils. This self-enhancing tendency did not happen in the American samples whose cultural orientation does not emphasize the importance of holism; and in participants who were not motivated to enhance their holistic thinking ability. The findings have important implications in understanding the circumstances in which this new form of the mere ownership effect might occur.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Applied Psychology
SupervisorWai Lan Victoria YEUNG (Supervisor) & Miu Chi Vivian LUN (Supervisor)

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