Psychological Ownership and the Organizational Context
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Psychological Ownership and the Organizational Context

Theory, Research Evidence, and Application

Jon L. Pierce and Iiro Jussila

Psychological ownership as a phenomenon and construct attracts an increasing number of scholars in a variety of fields. This volume presents a comprehensive and up-to-date review of the psychological ownership literature with particular attention paid to the theory, research evidence, and comments on managerial applications.
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Chapter 2: The Construct: Psychological Ownership

Jon L. Pierce and Iiro Jussila


Scholars working in a variety of disciplines (for example, geography, philosophy, sociology, early child development, psychology) provide us with an extensive literature that has had as its focus the psychology of my and mine, possession, property, and ownership. It is the unfolding of these psychological processes within the work lives of people that has inspired, since the early 1990s, the publication of a number of articles involving the construct psychological ownership. In this chapter we provide the conceptual definition for this psychological state, which is the primary focus of this work. We also note, however, that in addition to the conceptual definition (à la Pierce, Kostova, and Dirks, 2001) that will be employed throughout our work, there are several other conceptual definitions that have been given to the same construct. We depict psychological ownership as one of several conditions that portrays the psychological relationship that individuals form with their work and the organization. Each condition can be seen as the psychological glue that connects and bonds the individual to the work that they do (that is, their jobs) and to the organization in which this work is performed. PSYCHOLOGICAL OWNERSHIP CONCEPTUALLY DEFINED As noted by Leon Litwinski (1942, p. 30), one of the founding pioneers of economic psychology, from a psychological perspective ‘to possess means the power of becoming tied to an object.’ As such, there is a strong link between possessions and one’s ‘sense of self” (cf. Belk, 1988; Dittmar, 1991; Furby, 1991; James, 18901). We are what we possess...

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