In this study, Peck and Shu explore the relationship(s) between haptics (the sense of touch), perceived ownership levels, and perceived valuation levels. The authors find strong evidence to suggest that touch leads to increased levels of perceived ownership which in turn leads to increased levels of perceived valuation for the object(s) in question. An exception appears to exist for objects which are unpleasant to touch (in such cases, touch still appears to increase perceived ownership levels, but a corresponding increase in perceived valuations is not observed – arguably due to negative affective reactions). Accordingly, the evidence suggests that increased perceptions of valuation are driven by the combination of 1) increased levels of perceived ownership and 2) a positive (or, at least, neutral) affective reaction. Additionally, the authors find evidence that the use of ownership imagery appears to be an adequate substitute for touch – materially increasing levels of perceived ownership and valuation. Ownership imagery involves the triggering of questions in prospective buyers such as: If I were to buy this, where would I keep it at home? What would I do with it? How would I feel? Etc. The implications of this last point about ownership imagery are particularly interesting for online retailers as touch is generally not possible.
Peck, Joann and Suzanne B. Shu, “The Effect of Mere Touch on Perceived Ownership,” The Journal of Consumer Research 36.3 (2009): 434-47. Accessed via JSTOR