To have, or to feel like having : the effect of psychological ownership on consumer well-being
This dissertation is among one of the first to introduce the concept of psychological ownership (Jussila, Tarkiainen, Sarstedt, and Hair, 2015) into consumer well-being research. Previous studies explored how “having” something makes people happy, but they all tend to view “having” as a state of legal ownership over the objects, and neglect the role of psychological ownership. According to self-determination theory, the author suggests that psychological ownership has a stronger impact on happiness than legal ownership, because the routes to psychological ownership satisfy the basic psychological needs including competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Through three experiments, the results show: 1) consumers feel happier when they have a higher psychological ownership over an item, e.g. a book rent form a library, regardless of whether they legally own the item. This effect is mediated by the satisfaction of basic psychological needs; 2) consumers anticipate greater happiness from a product that they customized as a gift either for themselves or for their friends. This effect is mediated by increased psychological ownership towards the gift through customization; 3) experiential framing of marketing messages influence consumers’ psychological ownership positively towards the advertised product, which in turn generates greater anticipated happiness. Theoretically, this dissertation contributes to the literature by providing an enhanced understanding of consumer happiness by uncovering the role of psychological ownership in the buying process. Practically, the study will help marketers make their products/services as a better candidate for the target of psychological ownership through message design and user experience design. The research on psychological ownership in consumer well-being is still in infancy. Future research should examine the effect of psychological ownership on sustainable consumer behaviors including reducing overconsumption, encouraging recycling, and promoting sharing economy as ways to enhance well-being.