Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

James (1890) argued that instincts have an innate neurological basis but that they are 
highly modifiable by learning and habit formation (Fletcher, 1957). This was the position, as 
well, of Angell (1906), McDougall (1908), Thorndike (1913), Calkins (1917), Warren (1919), Rivers 
(1923), Pavlov (1928), Watson (1929) and others, ail of whom attributed the origins of property to 
instincts, either to hoard or to grasp. Although there was some opposition to this (e.g. 
Litwinski, 1913), basing private property on instinct was indeed popular at that time. Bernard 
(1924), in his attack on instinct theory for its lack of explanatory power, examined the usage of 
instinct terminology in over 600 books and articles written between 1900 and 1920. Under the 
heading of economic instincts, for example, collecting, acquiring, appropriating, grabbing, 
hoarding, owning, saving, he tabulated 60 different such instincts, with the instincts of 
acquisition and owning being the two most popular terms. 
The instinct theory of property also came under attack for lack of empirical support. 
According to James (1890), instincts should be more evident in young children than in adults 
because children have been less modified by personal experience and socialization. He 
described a study of the collecting behavior of 100 school children to demonstrate the near 
universality of collecting by children. This initiated a sequence of studies of children’s 
collecting behavior (Kline & France, 1899; Wiltse & Hall, 1891; Burk, 1900; Lehman & Witty, 1927; 
Whitley, 1929; Witty & Lehman, 1930; 1931). When Beaglehole (1932) reviewed the child 
development literature, he argued that the wide variabilities in the reported frequency of 
collecting among children and in the peak age of collecting did not support the claim for an 
instinct of acquisition. Murphy, Murphy and Newcomb (1937) also challenged the idea of a 
collecting instinct because of the specificity of the collections. Another social psychologist of 
that era concluded: 
Wherever acquisitiveness does appear it is not primary, as an instinct must by definition 
be, but secondary....It is noteworthy that the fundamental, and therefore universal, human 
tendency of which it is but a particular expression, is the desire for pre-eminence, 
dominion, approbation, and the obverse of these, the eagerness to escape the contempt 
of one’s fellows. (Freeman, 1936, p. 311) 
indeed, many child psychologists of that period independently argued that the social 
nature of possessory behavior by children rendered untenable explanations based on instincts 
of hoarding or grasping. Durost (1932) argued that collecting per se was social, Maublanc 
(1938) argued that possessiveness was taught to children, and Isaacs (1933), Suttie (1933) and

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