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Why are we so attached to our things? - Christian Jarrett


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After witnessing the “violent rage” shown by babies whenever deprived of an item they considered their own, Jean Piaget – a founding father of child psychology – observed something profound about human nature: Our sense of ownership emerges incredibly early. But why do we become so attached to things? Christian Jarrett details the psychology of ownership.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

The business scholar Russell Belk wrote a seminal paper on our relationship with our possessions in 1988 in the Journal of Consumer Research, in which he proposed that they form part of an “extended self”. This paper is available to download for free on ResearchGate. Click here to read it. This paper was updated in 2013 "The Extended Self in a Digital World".

In 2014, the Guardian published a free guide on collecting, including a short piece by the educator on the psychology of collecting.

This article: The psychology of stuff and things in The Psychologist magazine explores the psychology of our relationship with our things in more detail. What kinds of items do you value most? Do you have something special from your childhood?

The childhood researcher and psychologist Bruce Hood wrote about cross-cultural differences in the psychology of possession in a guest post for the blog in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. Read it here: How does the psychology of ownership differ between Western and Eastern cultures?

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Christian Jarrett
  • Director Avi Ofer
  • Animator Avi Ofer
  • Illustrator Avi Ofer
  • Composer Marcos Tawil
  • Sound Designer Marcos Tawil
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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