Marketing Letters

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 591–605 | Cite as

The ownership distance effect: the impact of traces left by previous owners on the evaluation of used goods

  • Jungkeun Kim


This article examines how salient traces left by previous owners on used goods influence product evaluations. Based on the concept of psychological ownership, we propose the ownership distance effect in the context of buying used goods. We argue that when there are salient traces left by previous owners on a used good, it will widen the ownership distance between the potential buyers and the product. As a consequence, buyers will tend to evaluate the product less positively. Four experimental studies were conducted, and the results support this prediction. Buyers preferred used goods with salient traces left by a previous owner less (studies 1 and 2) due to the ownership distance effect. In addition, perceived psychological ownership mediates the ownership distance effect (studies 2 and 4). However, this negative effect decreased when specific situations (e.g., free housecleaning service) lessened the ownership distance, or when people believed that a previous owner’s trace would benefit them in obtaining their consumption goal (studies 3 and 4). The analysis of actual transactions from also confirms this effect (study 5). We conclude with a discussion of the substantive theoretical and managerial implications of this research.


Ownership distance effect Psychological ownership Contagion effect Owner’s trace Used goods 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2014S1A5A2A03065829).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marketing, Advertising, Retailing, and SalesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

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