Article | Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition | May 2007

Aspects of Endowment: A Query Theory of Value Construction

by Eric Johnson, Gerald Haubl and Anat Keinan

Abstract

How do people judge the monetary value of objects? One clue is provided by the typical endowment study (D. Kahneman, J. L. Knetsch, & R. H. Thaler, 1991), in which participants are randomly given either a good, such as a coffee mug, that they may later sell ("sellers") or a choice between the good and amounts of cash ("choosers"). Sellers typically demand at least twice as much as choosers, inconsistent with economic theory. This result is usually explained by an increased weighting of losses, or loss aversion. The authors provide a memory-based account of endowment, suggesting that people construct values by posing a series of queries whose order differs for sellers and choosers. Because of output interference, these queries retrieve different aspects of the object and the medium of exchange, producing different valuations. The authors show that the content and structure of the recalled aspects differ for selling and choosing and that these aspects predict valuations. Merely altering the order in which queries are posed can eliminate the endowment effect, and changing the order of queries can produce endowment-like effects without ownership.

Keywords: Profit; Forecasting and Prediction; Theory; Valuation; Loss; Ownership; Decision Choices and Conditions;

Citation:

Johnson, Eric, Gerald Haubl, and Anat Keinan. "Aspects of Endowment: A Query Theory of Value Construction." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 33, no. 3 (May 2007): 461–474.