The Social Psychology of Property: Looking Beyond Market Exchange

17 Pages Posted: 7 May 2018

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2, 2018


Our social norms and moral values shape our beliefs about the propriety of different types of market exchanges. This review considers social and moral influences on beliefs about property and the consequences of these beliefs for the legal regulation of property. The focus is mainly on empirical evidence from social psychology, with additions from related areas like cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and other social sciences. After briefly reviewing empirical findings on perceptions of property at the level of the individual person, I examine how social relationships shape perceptions about ownership and exchange of property, as well as the boundaries of the broad category of property. Finally, I explore one important type of socially embedded property — the home — and how social psychological conceptions of property as embedded in social relationships have clashed with the development of the legal doctrine of eminent domain.

Keywords: property, psychology, morality, behavioral economics, eminent domain, attitudes

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Nadler, Janice, The Social Psychology of Property: Looking Beyond Market Exchange (May 2, 2018). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Forthcoming, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 18-12, Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 18-11, Available at SSRN: or

Janice Nadler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - School of Law

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Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-3228 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

American Bar Foundation ( email )

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