The Impact of Psychological Ownership on Value in Use and Relational Outcomes in Sharing Economy
Services refer to transactions through which customers gain the right to use tangible or intangible resources of service providers (Wittkowski et al., 2013). As such, customers attain access to suppliers’ resources without the need to own them. Research in psychology has sufficiently proved that feelings of ownership have important behavioral, emotional, and psychological consequences (Pierce et al., 2001). However, such feelings of ownership can also occur when an individual is not the legal owner but only the user of resources. This so-called psychological ownership (PO) has received a great deal of attention in the organizational field (e.g. Van Dyne & Pierce, 2004, Rodgers & Freundlich, 1998; Pierce et al., 1991; Rodgers & Freundlich, 1998; Dirks et al., 1996). In line with this research tradition, this study’s first assumption is that the degree of PO also affects the behavior of service customers using supplier resources within the process of service provisioning without owning them, like in car sharing.
Moreover, Reb and Connolly (2007) show that a high degree of PO positively affects an individual’s endowment effect. Hence, people judge the value of certain objects as higher merely when they develop subjective feelings of ownership toward these objects. Thus, the second assumption is that PO also affects the value in use customers perceive in service, defined as all customer-perceived consequences arising from use that facilitate or hinder the achievement of goals (Macdonald et al., 2011; Woodruff, 1997). Moreover, as value in use is seen as an important driver of relational outcomes like satisfaction, commitment, and word-of-mouth (Bruns & Jacob, 2016; Lemke et al., 2011; Macdonald et al., 2011), we also assume that PO drives, mediated through value in use, such relational outcomes.
Based on these assumptions, this study investigates the effects of customer-perceived psychological ownership in the field of car-sharing services. Based on a qualitative pre-study in which relevant value-in-use dimensions were identified, a quantitative study was conducted (n = 152). It shows that psychological ownership has a significant positive influence on each of the identified value-in-use dimensions. Further, the study reveals how the various dimensions influence customers’ satisfaction, affective commitment and word-of-mouth intention.
The study thus contributes to the current state of knowledge in three ways. First, it provides additional conceptual and empirical insights into the relevance and impact of PO in the service field, especially in car sharing. Second, by transferring the theoretical foundation of PO to a practical service context, this study extends the service marketing literature, in that few studies in this field focus on the usage of specific objects to which PO relates. Third, this study helps guide firms in improving service design by empirically demonstrating how the degree of PO leads to increased customer-perceived value in use and thus relational outcomes.