Psychological Ownership of (Borrowed) Money
Posted: 27 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 20, 2020
The current research introduces the concept of psychological ownership of borrowed money, a construct that represents how much consumers feel that borrowed money is their own. We observe both individual-level and contextual-level variation in the degree to which consumers feel psychological ownership of borrowed money, and variation on this dimension predicts willingness to borrow money for discretionary purchases. At an individual level, psychological ownership of borrowed money is distinct from other individual factors such as debt aversion, financial literacy, income, inter-temporal discounting, materialism, propensity to plan, self-control, spare money, and tightwad-spendthrift tendencies, and, it predicts willingness to borrow above and beyond these factors. At a contextual level, we document systematic differences in psychological ownership between different debt types. We show that these differences in psychological ownership manifest in consumers’ online search behavior and explain consumers’ differential interest in borrowing across debt types. Finally, we demonstrate that psychological ownership of borrowed money is malleable, such that framing debt in terms of low psychological ownership can reduce consumers’ propensity to borrow.
Keywords: consumer finances, financial decision making, debt, mental accounting, psychological ownership
JEL Classification: M31, M30, D10, D14, G02, I30, A1
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