The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

Lady Gaga fans feel a certain psychological ownership of the star

Psychological Ownership (Abridged)

Psychological ownership is the feeling that a target, or a part of that target, is “mine.” It is distinct from legal ownership and can occur regardless of whether the target is, or even can be, legally owned. For example, while many individuals feel a psychological attachment to “my house” that goes beyond their legal title to the property, similar statements of perceived ownership are used in reference to “my hometown,” “my alma mater,” or even “my spouse.” The majority of research has focused on consumers’ psychological ownership of material goods. Surprisingly little research has examined consumers’ psychological ownership of consumption experiences, including the arts.

The features of experiential consumption identified by Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) – including the inability to evaluate experiences before they are consumed, increased reliance on emotional responses, emphasis on symbolic benefits and hedonic value, and incorporation of multiple sensory channels into the experience – create both a challenge and an opportunity for the arts to inspire the development of psychological ownership. Specifically, arts experiences have the potential to fulfill multiple needs that underlie psychological ownership, particularly the relatively understudied need for stimulation. However, arts organizations may need to provide opportunities for consumers to exert control over aspects of the experience through co-creation or personalization, gain intimate knowledge that enables them to imagine and anticipate the experience, or invest their identity into the experience and/or use the experience to express their identity to others.

Lady Gaga fans feel a certain psychological ownership of the star
Lady Gaga fans at SXSW in 2014. Credit: Anna Hanks (Creative Commons)

In addition, arts organizations can draw on their communities of consumers to enhance feelings of collective psychological ownership of both the arts experience and the arts organization. These opportunities to engage with and enhance consumer feelings of ownership have the potential to benefit both the consumer and the organization.

It is also possible that the purchase of memberships or subscriptions to arts organizations may enable consumers to capture this desire for efficacy through psychological ownership. While the consumer may not control the artistic experience they have at the museum, theater, or concert hall, having a membership or subscription allows for control over details like when they have access or where they sit in the audience. This is not likely to be the primary motivation for psychological ownership of the arts experience, but it may contribute to the development of psychological ownership of the organization, along with the other three motives (that are the need for stimulation, for home, and for self-identity).

While the ownership of a specific arts experience may be individual, psychological ownership of arts organizations is more likely to be collective in nature. Consumption of the arts is frequently viewed as a communal experience. The performing arts in particular have been characterized as a “club good,” where consumers with similar preferences view themselves as part of a collectivity and develop feelings of shared consumption of the arts experience.

Fans feel a certain psychological ownership towards their stars
The crowd at a DMB concert in 2009. Credit: Moses Namkung (Creative Commons)

Fan communities in particular have been found to have increased intentions to engage in efforts to co-produce creative work for an artist. Thus, consumers who perceive themselves to be members of a fan community are likely to perceive individual psychological ownership of their own artistic experiences, but collective psychological ownership of the artist or organization, leading them to be more likely to act as stewards of the artistic or organizational brand. If fan communities develop strong feelings of ownership, they may become resistant to changes in the artistic direction of the organization, particularly if these changes are perceived to be revolutionary – significant deviations from past offerings – or subtractive – offerings being removed rather than added. As these communities have the ability to act collectively, they are more likely to voice their discontent to the organization and to other potential audiences and may even seek to counter the organization’s endeavors to reposition the artist or artistic brand by creating their own brand images and drowning out the organization’s marketing efforts.

Considering that psychological ownership of the arts experience can extend to the platform, artist, or arts organization, and the associated advantages for the organization or brand, it seems likely that organizations will benefit from cultivating a sense of ownership among their consumers.

 

IMPORTANT: note that this article contains scientific references that we have omitted to lighten the text. Please consult the original article if you wish to quote excerpts.

Contact us at mmiam@hec.ca to request a free copy of the full article published in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 26, Number 1, Fall 2023.

You can also browse our abridged research articles here.