Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy



Collaborative Specialization

Migration and Ethnic Relations


Esses, Victoria M.


Mechanisms linking social identification to negative outgroup attitudes is a prevailing inspiration for research in intergroup relations. Psychological ownership—the possessive feeling that some object is ‘mine’ or ‘ours’—has been proposed as one possible mechanism. Social identification is a precursor to developing feelings of ownership over ideological spaces, such as countries or territories. Subsequently, ownership may drive negative outgroup attitudes through exhibition of one’s right to control the use of the ingroup’s space. Psychological ownership may also have positive roles in developing citizenship behaviors, such as through voting or buying ingroup national products. The following program of research tests these ideas. Study 1 provides preliminary evidence of psychological ownership’s plausible role as a mediator between southern identification and negative outgroup attitudes toward Blacks in the Southern United States. A comprehensive measure of psychological ownership of country is developed in studies 2 and 3 with evidence of validity and reliability presented in studies 2-4. Test-retest reliability is demonstrated in study 5 and predictive validity is demonstrated in studies 4 and 7. Study 6 examines a longitudinal mediation model and study 7 examines how psychological ownership predicts decisions to buy national versus foreign products. Emerging from this program of research is a reliable and valid measure of psychological ownership of territorial spaces, evidence that social identification is a precursor to psychological ownership, evidence for psychological ownership as a predictor of positive citizenship behaviors, and conflicting findings over psychological ownership mediating the positive relationship between social identification and more negative outgroup attitudes. Across studies, social identification was linked to more negative outgroup attitudes. In some cases, psychological ownership was a plausible mediator wherein it was linked to more negative attitudes (Studies 1 & 6), in some cases this was specific to the immersion factor (Study 4) or self-identity and efficacy factors (Study 7); however, efficacy appears associated with more positive attitudes (Study 7). There was no evidence of mediation in the longitudinal model (Study 6). This research initiates the systematic study of psychological ownership in the intergroup domain and refines our understanding of possession of non-physical entities.