Stewarding our public goods is one of the most important issues of our day. This work demonstrates that increasing a consumer’s psychological ownership of public goods motivates both effortful (e.g., picking up trash) and financial (e.g., making donations) stewardship behaviors. The authors present inexpensive, yet actionable, interventions that provide solutions to encourage individual care behavior.
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Peck, Joann, Colleen P. Kirk, Andrea W. Luangrath and Suzanne B. Shu (2020), “Caring for the Commons: Using Psychological Ownership to Enhance Stewardship Behavior for Public Goods” Journal of Marketing.
How can consumers be encouraged to take better care of public goods? Across four studies, including two experiments in the field and three documenting actual behaviors, the authors demonstrate that increasing consumers’ individual psychological ownership facilitates stewardship of public goods. This effect occurs because feelings of ownership increase consumers’ perceived responsibility which then leads to active behavior to care for the good. Evidence from a variety of contexts, including a public lake with kayakers, a state park with skiers, and a public walking path, suggests that increasing psychological ownership enhances both effortful stewardship, such as picking up trash from a lake, and financial stewardship, such as donating money. This work further demonstrates that the relationship between psychological ownership and resulting stewardship behavior is attenuated when there are cues, such as an attendance sign, which diffuse responsibility among many people. This work offers implications for consumers, practitioners, and policy makers with simple interventions that can encourage consumers to be better stewards of public goods.
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