Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Me, My body, My My Strangers, 
Free will, My conscience, belongings, friends, Physical universe 
(McClelland, 1951, p. 539) 
McClelland cites Allport’s (1937) concept of extension of self, Rogers’ (1948) suggestion that 
control is the criterion for inclusion in the self, Bruner’s (1951) concept of self-potency, and 
Piaget's (1930) description of force and control as the basis of the child's sense of self. Neither 
McClelland nor his sources cite James and thus may represent quite independent 
The hypotheses that possessions are a perceived part of the self and that perceived 
proximity to self is a direct function of power and control were tested experimentally by 
Prelinger (1959). He had 60 adult males sort 160 items representative of eight categories of 
parts of the self into into four levels of proximity to the self. Results showed body parts to be 
closest to the self, followed by psychological and body processes, personal identifying 
characteristics, and finally possessions and productions. Not-self categories were abstract 
ideas, other people, close physical environment, and distant physical environment. Prelinger 
(1959) then had five judges identify which of the 160 items were controlled by people, which 
controlled people, or which were neutral on control. He found that proximity to self was 
inversely related to neutrality of control, and he might have noted the perfect rank-order 
correlation of control and proximity for those categories of items that were judged part of the 
Dixon and Street (1975) replicated Prelinger’s (1959) study on boys and girls aged six to 
sixteen and found possessions to be marginally a part of the self, with slightly more inclusion 
as children got older. Using another research method, that of asking people to describe 
themselves, Jersild (1952), Gordon (1968), and Keller, Ford and Meacham (1978) found that 
possessions and ownership roles are not mentioned frequently and that the tendency is for less 
mention of possessions as children get older. Most recently, Belk (1987) had 248 adults do the 
Prelinger task, using 37 self-generated items and 59 experimenter-selected items. He found 
dwellings, clothing, and vehicles to be possessions closest to the self. An analysis of sex 
differences showed the self-possessions of men to be accomplishment-oriented and those of 
women to be people-oriented and self-expressive. As a group, these studies confirm the 
James-McClelland hypothesis that material possessions are perceived as a distant part of the

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