It Goes With the Territory: Ownership Across Spatial Boundaries


Previous studies have shown that people are faster to process objects that they own as compared with objects that other people own. Yet object ownership is embedded within a social environment that has distinct and sometimes competing rules for interaction. Here we ask whether ownership of space can act as a filter through which we process what belongs to us. Can a sense of territory modulate the well-established benefits in information processing that owned objects enjoy? In 4 experiments participants categorized their own or another person’s objects that appeared in territories assigned either to themselves or to another. We consistently found that faster processing of self-owned than other-owned objects only emerged for objects appearing in the self-territory, with no such advantage in other territories. We propose that knowing whom spaces belong to may serve to define the space in which affordances resulting from ownership lead to facilitated processing.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(8), 789-797