Affective consequences of mere ownership: The name letter effect in twelve European languages

Authors

  • Jozef M. Nuttin Jr.

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratorium voor Experiment & Sociale Psychologie. Universiteit Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
    • Laboratorium voor Experiment & Sociale Psychologie. Universiteit Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
    Search for more papers by this author
    • This is a first report of the main results of a cross-lingual study done in 1984–1985 in close collaboration with Hilde Sas to whom the author is deeply indebted for her assuming responsibility not only for the organization of the 12 studies but also for the processing of the data.


Abstract

The hypothesis is tested that mere ownership of an object is a sufficient condition to enhance its likelihood to become one of the most attractive items of the entire set of similar objects. Evidence is presented that isolated visual letter stimuli belonging to one's own name are more often ranked among the six most preferred letters of the entire alphabet than identical not-own name letters. Across 12 different European languages, an (own) name letter effect was found for (initial and/or not-initial) letters belonging to own first and/or family name. The fundamental theoretical relevance of the effect is outlined as well as its heuristic value for research on individual versus collective ownership and on affective asymmetry. A cross-lingual analysis of the six least preferred letters-while also confirming the mere ownership hypothesis-calls for a critical reformulation of Zajonc's mere exposure theory.

Ancillary