Ever wonder why you cling to your “stuff” so tightly? The “endowment effect” states that we all tend to prefer the items we own when compared to similar items that we do not own. “It’s mine!” is our strongly voiced opinion from the very first days that we can speak.
When researchers studied the brains of volunteers through fMRI they found that three different brain areas were activated during those times when we are prompted to declare ownership. Initial results indicate that the endowment effect is not promoted by our enhanced attraction to possessions but rather that ownership increases value by enhancing the significance of the possible loss of preferred products. Losing something that we like is more significant than the actual ownership of the item.
It is also threatening – and we tend to be motivated more by aversion to loss than attraction to gain. And as we’ve said in the past, threat is a powerful emotion that gets our attention quickly. The element of surprise only intensifies the effect. Try and grab a favorite teddy bear from a three-year-old and watch how quickly “It’s mine!” kicks in.
Aversion to loss lies at the heart of the strength of our attachments to things. When there is little risk of losing something it’s often surprising how little value we find that we actually attach to it.