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Your attachment to ‘stuff’ may be why it’s hard for you to sell belongings

Posted at 6:42 PM, Oct 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-23 20:42:59-04

PROVO, Utah - Tamara Masters, Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra are marketing professors with the Masters at BYU and the Mishras at the University of Utah.

They help students learn how people experience products and how companies and individuals can make products attractive.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics, they wanted to understand why some people are really bad at selling their stuff, though they put it in much more technical language.

Specifically, they asked about the relationship of attachment and loss aversion to the willingness to pay (WTP) and the willingness to accept (WTA) a price for a particular object.

Masters says they guessed that it would be a combination of attachment and loss aversion, rather than one of those traits in isolation, that would cause someone to ask an unreasonable price for an object.

"What we see and what we feel can rewrite what we think is logical," Masters said.

Their test used an established technique in neuroscience experiments that combines viewing an object and feeling a physical sensation at the same time. In this case, the object was a mug, and the physical sensation was getting a tap on the hand from a researcher who was also tapping the mug to the same rhythm.

Some subjects, answering questions about their experience clearly developed an attachment to the mug while others did not.

The study found that a buyer who felt an attachment to the object wasn't willing to pay more than a buyer who felt no attachment, but a seller who felt an attachment priced the mug significantly higher on average, suggesting that loss aversion combines with attachment to make a person charge more.

"If you're complaining that no one else sees the value and they're ripping you off, maybe you're a little biased and you're not thinking clearly," Masters said.