Cognition 132 (3):471-484 (2014)

Claudia Passos-Ferreira
New York University
To what extent do early intuitions about ownership depend on cultural and socio-economic circumstances? We investigated the question by testing reasoning about third party ownership conflicts in various groups of three- and five-year-old children (N = 176), growing up in seven highly contrasted social, economic, and cultural circumstances (urban rich, poor, very poor, rural poor, and traditional) spanning three continents. Each child was presented with a series of scripts involving two identical dolls fighting over an object of possession. The child had to decide who of the two dolls should own the object. Each script enacted various potential reasons for attributing ownership: creation, familiarity, first contact, equity, plus a control/neutral condition with no suggested reasons. Results show that across cultures, children are significantly more consistent and decisive in attributing ownership when one of the protagonists created the object. Development between three and five years is more or less pronounced depending on culture. The propensity to split the object in equal halves whenever possible was generally higher at certain locations (i.e., China) and quasi-inexistent in others (i.e., Vanuatu and street children of Recife). Overall, creation reasons appear to be more primordial and stable across cultures than familiarity, relative wealth or first contact. This trend does not correlate with the passing of false belief theory of mind.
Keywords Ownership  Reasoning  Development
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.04.014
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,199
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Weirdest People in the World?Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2-3):61-83.

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Value of Ownership.Meir Dan-Cohen - 2001 - Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (4):404–434.
G. A. Cohen on Self‐Ownership, Property, and Equality.Tom G. Palmer - 1998 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 12 (3):225-251.
The Mark of Bodily Ownership.F. de Vignemont - 2013 - Analysis 73 (4):643-651.
Ownership and Justice for Animals.Alasdair Cochrane - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (4):424-442.
Personal Identity and Self-Ownership.Edward Feser - 2005 - Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):100-125.


Added to PP index

Total views
81 ( #144,695 of 2,518,118 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #408,577 of 2,518,118 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes