Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

With dominance defined as control, the hypothesis of this thesis is that ownership entails not 
only the control of resources at the physical level, but also intentional or unintentional 
motivations to control and dominate others. 
Thesis Design 
Science is essentially a rhetorical process. A claim is made and evidence is presented to 
persuade an audience of the veracity of the claim. Typically the claim is theoretical and the 
evidence empirical. The audience imposes its standards as to what constitutes a good 
argument and, thus, in large part determines the research design used. It is necessary, 
therefore, to indicate the prospective audience before detailing a research plan. 
This thesis, though within the discipline of social psychology, aspires to a wider social 
science audience than contemporary readers of experimental social psychology journals. 
Although one purpose of this work is to revive among social psychologists an interest in the 
topic of ownership, the social psychologists in mind are those who strive to relate individual 
psychology to larger socio-cultural considerations. This extends, as well, to other social 
scientists in political economy, sociology, and law who have an Interest in the interface between 
the individual and society. Other audiences being addressed by this thesis are consumer 
psychologists and perhaps eventually the general public, both of whom have very real interests 
in understanding the psychological relationships between people and their control of material 
goods and resources. 
With these audiences in mind, the preliminary work to this thesis included a 
multidisciplinary bibliography (Rudmin, Belk & Furby, 1987) and a history of the psychology of 
ownership, presented in the introduction. Consideration of these audiences also led to the 
thesis design being considerably different from that of most contemporary social psychological 
research. The design was conceived in tension between universalist science (e.g. Berry, 1979; 
1983; Rohner, 1975; 1977) on the one hand, and generative science (e.g. Gergen, 1978; 1980; 
McGuire, 1980; 1983) on the other. The former strives to establish enduring, universal, 
parsimonious principles of human social behavior; the later strives to challenge established; 
parsimonious principles of human social behavior by generating new explanations and by 
introducing qualifications and complexity. The former advocates multimethod, multicultural 
research in order to confirm the hypothesis under study; the later also advocates multimethod.

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