The endowment effect shows that if you have a sense of ownership over an item, you immediately attribute greater value to the item. In a digital experience, is scrolling or hovering over an item enough to create a sense of ownership, or must the user explicitly interact with a page (via clicks/taps/gestures)?

Google isn't being very helpful in finding me evidence to support or reject this statement, so I'm turning to the good citizens of UX StackExchange... what do y'all think? Do you know of academic studies that have been performed in this area?

edit: @Marielle very handily identified the phenomenon in question and linked to a pair of articles that state that physically touching the item on a screen trumps clicking on it:


  • 1
    Saw this article a few weeks ago. contently.com/strategist/2014/04/04/… They seem to suggest clicks may not necessarily be a good measurement of engagement, instead time on page and # of times the item is shared seems to be better predictors for engagement. So it makes me think, the OP might not necessarily be true.
    – nightning
    Apr 29, 2014 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


The endowment effect is a well-studied phenomenon in psychology that describes how people attribute more value to things that they take (mental) ownership of. Simply touching an item suffices to increase the perceived value of an object and the amount of money people are willing to pay for it, or the amount of effort they will do to keep it.

This 'touch effect' also occurs in non-physical items, when people interact with them on a tablet, as James Gips found out in a recent study.

Easy-to-read overview of their findings: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3022127/evidence/why-youre-more-likely-to-buy-something-when-shopping-on-your-ipad

Original article http://www.cs.bc.edu/~gips/BraselGipsJCP2013TabletTouch.pdf

  • Aha! I believe this was the original phenomenon that was mentioned to me, thank you! I'll edit the question to reflect the correct name. Do you think mousing over the item is sufficient to induce the perception of touching, or is clicking necessary?
    – rach oune
    Apr 30, 2014 at 18:18

If you have a page, a great way to test this is by using google analytics and testing it out!

I'm my experience (no proper studies were conducted) users can work much faster with information that's all visible at once and thus are more inclined to process everything on the page. When people have to scroll, click, or generally perform actions to interact with data they become more inclined to just close the page and move on.

My way to deal with this is to have a great information architecture so that users are seeing only what they NEED to see on a page and nothing more. If they need more information they can click to go elsewhere.

TL;DR - In my experience, having short concise pages/data naturally increases engagement and shouldn't require users to click or interact in other ways to hold their attention.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.