Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

This has been extended to people grieving a death (e.g. Bonnard, 1961; Parkes, 1970) and to 
older people moving into institutional care (e.g. Sherman & Newman, 1977). 
In addition to the developments that followed from German philosophy, the second and 
more enduring of the nineteenth century reinforcements of instinct theory was the biological 
theory of evolution (Fletcher, 1957). The earliest discussions of instinct had, of course, been 
based on biology, but biology as physiology. Darwin's (1859) theory of evolution considered 
instincts to be mechanisms of adaptive behavior. For Darwin, unlearned behavior patterns, no 
matter how complex, were built up from hereditary component behaviors that evolved through 
natural selection. Romanes (1883) made this particularly attractive for research on the natural 
origins of ownership when he placed primitive man on the phylogenetic progression between 
apes and civilized man, and then mirrored that evolutionary progression in the progression of 
individual development. For Romanes, the maxim that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” 
applied to psychology as well as biology. The first four major reviews of behavioral literature 
on property each began by describing the property behaviors of animals, then primitive man, 
and then civilized man (Letourneau, 1892; Petrucci, 1905; Kline & France, 1899; Beaglehole, 1932). 
Letourneau (1892) emphasized ethnography, Petrucci (1905) emphasized animal phylogeny, and 
Kline and France (1899) and Beaglehole (1932) completed Romanes’ scheme by including 
reviews of the literature on children’s property behaviors. 
Within psychology, the instinct for property had moved from its original sixteenth century 
“passion for self-regard” to the more atomistic, behavioristic and individualistic instinct for 
acquisition. As noted by Drever (1917), this reduction made it difficult to explain the 
interpersonal qualities of possessiveness: 
If we attempt careful analysis, we shall probably come to the conclusion, that primarily any 
small object, which attracts the attention and pleases, evokes the acquisitive tendency; but, 
as we find in Man, it is in the main determined by objects apprehended as ‘valuable’, and 
the attaching of ‘value’ to the object is largely, though not entirely, a social process...The 
satisfaction in possession is not in the mere possessing as it would be if the acquisitive 
tendency alone were operative, but in the effect of this possession on our relations with our 
fellows. an effect which may be either real or imagined. (Drever, 1917, pp. 188-189) 
It was this incompatibility of individualistic explanation and social phenomenon that caused the 
abandonment of the instinct theory of property by psychologists in the 1930's. 
Within the field of biology, however, the instinct theory of property was modified rather 
than abandoned, and was eventually able to re-enter psychology as the concepts of territoriality

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