Why Digital Goods Are Valued Less Than Physical Goods

Carey Morewedge, Boston University

Many digital goods such as souvenir photographs, books, and films are substantive innovations relative to their physical counterparts. Despite this, consumers may ascribe less value to digital than to physical versions of the same good. In this Lunch Lecture @ MSI, Carey Morewedge will discuss results of several experiments to understand why and when happens. Using a variety of measures of value, he and his colleagues find that physical rather than digital goods garner a stronger association with the self (i.e., psychological ownership) that underlies the greater value ascribed to physical goods. Three additional studies demonstrate that people also view the theft of digital goods to be less morally blameworthy than stealing comparable physical goods. These findings show how features of objects influence their capacity to garner psychological ownership before they are acquired, and provide theoretical and practical insights for the marketing, psychology, and economics of digitization.



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