Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

This thesis examines the hypothesis that ownership reflects interpersonal dominance, i.e. 
through control of property, owners dominate other people. An historical survey from 
Pythagoras to the present showed dominance to be part of traditional psychological theories 
that owning is related to the Self, to instincts, to moral development, to knowing, and to 
symbolic communication. 
Three studies were conducted. The first used Multinational Student Survey (1968) data 
from 3488 male university students in 15 societies to examine Gordon's Scale of Interpersonal 
Values for predictors of attitudes towards private property. Across societies, favorable attitudes 
were most consistently predictable from a preference for Leadership, here interpreted as 
dominance. Within societies, this relationship seemed to be moderated by preference for 
The second study surveyed 195 university summer students and 92 people in a car-ferry 
queue. Respondents judged the similarity of 24 verbs to the verb own, then completed Belk's 
scale of materialism and 10 Personality Research Form scales. Results showed six semantic 
components to own: possession, dominion, acquisition, attachment, stewardship, and 
covetousness. In both samples, dominance correlated with own having more meaning of 
dominion. Independently, materialism predicted own having more of a meaning of dominion. 
Materialism was highly correlated with defendence. 
The third study examined the meaning of own for Cree, whose culture devalues 
interpersonal dominance, and for English Canadians, whose culture values it. After 
forward-and-back translation, 25 verbs were used for similarity judgements by age stratified 
samples of 20 men and 20 women from matched communities in each society. Methods were 
recall, card-sort, scaling, and interview. In both societies, own is closest in meaning to 
possess, have, and control. But for the Cree, control does not mean dominion, and owning has 
more meaning of need, want, and deserve. 
The results of these studies concur that the concept of ownership can be shown to 
include interpersonal dominance. Speculations are made about a feminist theory of property. 
Data bases for all studies are appended. For full bibliography see Rudmin, et al. (1987), Social 
Science Bibliography on Property, Ownership, and Possession. Monticello, IL: Vance.

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