Surprise! People Value Things More When They Physically Own Them

Many of our possessions (if you can call them that) are virtual. Books live as zeros and ones on our Kindles. We stream movies and TV shows on Netflix or rent them through iTunes instead of buying DVDs. Video games are played on sites like Steam. And, of course, we stream our music.

Convenient, yes, but this reduces so much entertainment media to something evanescent and, sadly, disposable, largely because they lack any kind of physical presence in our lives. Do we value these things as much as if we had to buy them and physically possess them? As it turns out, no.

A new study says that our perception of the value a media item–music, a book, a video game and so on–goes way up when we actually buy that item. From the Daily Mail:

We live in a time when it is possible to carry the entire works of Shakespeare around on one electronic device.

As millions read books on Kindle e-readers and stream films on Netflix, it may seem the whole world has gone digital.

But it seems clicking on icons in cyberspace still can’t quite beat the thrill of taking home a book in a paper bag and opening it to the first page.

A study has found people still value owning physical objects more than their digital versions, because holding something makes it feel like it is yours.

US researchers found people offered a Harry Potter book or its digital version were willing to pay more to have it in their hands.

A real photograph was still worth more to people than a digital snapshot and, when asked how they felt about real-life objects they were more likely to say ‘I feel like I own it’ or I feel like it is mine’.

These were the findings of five experiments led by the University of Basel on digital and physical items.

Keep reading. Explains why people are so tight-fisted with their CD and vinyl collections, doesn’t it?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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