Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

psychologies of property (e.g. Hollowell, 1982). Finally, a few anomalous contributions and 
developments have been ignored. For example, Irwin and colleagues (Irwin, Armitt & Simon, 
1943; Irwin & Gebhard, 1946; Irwin, Orchinik & Weiss, 1946) performed some remarkably 
advanced social psychological experiments on ownership and object preferences, apparently 
inspired by Lewinian field theory. 
Nevertheless, this history does rebuke beliefs that property has not been, and cannot be, 
a topic of psychological study. To the contrary, property has been an important and continuing 
topic from the very origins of psychology in Greek antiquity to the present. The claim that at 
least five themes run through this history has been substantiated. Perhaps the oldest and most 
enduring of these is that private property is integral to the self. Almost as old and equally 
enduring are the ideas that the owning is innate and biologically driven and that property is 
necessary for moral development. Appearing more sporadically in history are the ideas that 
owning is based on knowing and that property is a form of symbolic expression. Most 
importantly, however, this history has demonstrated that interpersonal dominance has been a 
consideration in all of these themes throughout the history of psychological consideration of 
property and ownership. 
Concept of Dominance 
The hypothesis of this thesis is that ownership entails not only a private relationship 
between a person as owner and the property owned, but also an interpersonal, social 
relationship between the person as owner and other persons as non-owners. The interpersonal 
relationship of interest here is dominance, though other interpersonal relationships have 
appeared in the historical literature just reviewed, such as autonomy, benevolence, 
defensiveness, leadership, and status recognition. It is not unreasonable or implausible that 
they too might be involved in the psychology of owning. However, it has been amply 
demonstrated that interpersonal dominance has long been considered a feature of possession 
and ownership. As will be discussed, dominance is defined in the present research as ‘control 
of people’, though it is important to be aware that the concept of dominance has been used in 
psychology with other meanings.

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