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Keywords:

  • Social rules;
  • Ownership;
  • Labor;
  • Locke

Abstract

People often assign ownership to the person who has invested labor into making an object (labor rule). However, labor usually improves objects and increases their value, and it has not been investigated whether these considerations underlie people's use of the labor rule. We presented participants with third-party ownership conflicts between an owner of materials and an artist who used the materials for some artwork. Experiment 1 revealed that participants were more likely to transfer ownership to the artist for low-value materials than for high-value materials, and Experiment 2 showed that this effect was further moderated by the amount of effort the artist had invested. A third experiment confirmed that participants transferred ownership more often if the artist's labor had increased the value of the materials than when it had added no value. These findings suggest that considerations for value underlie ownership transfers following the investment of labor.