• Articles

The Social Psychology of Property: Looking Beyond Market Exchange

January 2018

From the Annual Review of Law and Social Science 

Our social norms and moral values shape our beliefs about the propriety of different types of market exchanges. This review considers social and moral influences on beliefs about property and the consequences of these beliefs for the legal regulation of property. The focus is mainly on empirical evidence from social psychology, with additions from related areas like cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and other social sciences. After briefly reviewing empirical findings on perceptions of property at the level of the individual person, I examine how social relationships shape perceptions about ownership and exchange of property, as well as the boundaries of the broad category of property. Finally, I explore one important type of socially embedded property — the home — and how social psychological conceptions of property as embedded in social relationships have clashed with the development of the legal doctrine of eminent domain.