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Incomplete Possession Fallacy

Updated Apr 7, 2023

The Incomplete Possession Fallacy: Understanding Its Impact on Human Behavior


In the realm of psychology and human behavior, various cognitive biases and fallacies can significantly influence our thoughts, decisions, and actions. One such fallacy is the "incomplete possession fallacy." This article aims to shed light on this cognitive bias, explain its implications, and provide insights into how it can affect our lives.

What is the Incomplete Possession Fallacy?

The incomplete possession fallacy, also known as the "endowment effect," refers to the tendency of individuals to overvalue objects, ideas, or experiences they perceive as their own, even when those possessions may be objectively identical to others. Essentially, it suggests that the mere act of ownership can lead to an irrational attachment and inflated value of the possessed item.

The Role of Ownership

Ownership plays a vital role in the incomplete possession fallacy. When we possess something, whether it be a physical object, an idea, or an experience, it becomes a part of our identity and sense of self. This attachment influences our perception of the object's value, leading us to overestimate its worth compared to similar items that we do not own.

Psychological Explanations

Several psychological mechanisms contribute to the incomplete possession fallacy:

1. Loss Aversion

Loss aversion refers to our tendency to fear losing something more than we value gaining it. In the context of ownership, this bias can intensify our attachment to possessions, leading to an overvaluation of their worth and resistance to parting with them.

2. Endowment Effect

The endowment effect plays a significant role in the incomplete possession fallacy. It suggests that once we own something, we attribute additional value to it simply because it belongs to us. This effect can be observed even when objectively identical alternatives are available.

3. Status Quo Bias

The status quo bias refers to our preference for maintaining existing situations rather than initiating change. In the context of the incomplete possession fallacy, it can contribute to the overvaluation of our possessions as we become accustomed to their presence and resist alternatives.

Implications in Everyday Life

Understanding the incomplete possession fallacy is crucial as it has significant implications for our daily lives:

1. Consumer Behavior

Marketers often capitalize on the incomplete possession fallacy by creating a sense of ownership in their customers. By fostering attachment to their products, they can increase perceived value and encourage repeat purchases.

2. Trading and Negotiations

The incomplete possession fallacy can impact our decision-making during trading and negotiations. We may demand higher prices for our possessions or undervalue the possessions of others due to our biased perception of ownership.

3. Relationships and Belongings

In personal relationships, the incomplete possession fallacy can lead to conflicts over shared belongings. We tend to place higher value on possessions we perceive as our own, potentially causing disputes or difficulties in reaching fair resolutions.

Overcoming the Incomplete Possession Fallacy

While the incomplete possession fallacy is deeply rooted in our psychology, becoming aware of its influence can help us mitigate its impact:

1. Objectivity and Perspective

By consciously adopting an objective perspective, we can challenge our biased perception of ownership and evaluate possessions based on their true value rather than our emotional attachment.

2. Mindfulness and Gratitude

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can help us cultivate an appreciation for what we have without overvaluing it. By savoring experiences and possessions in the present moment, we can reduce the influence of the incomplete possession fallacy.

3. Sharing and Generosity

Actively participating in acts of sharing and generosity can counteract the inclination to overvalue our possessions. By letting go of the attachment to ownership, we can foster a more balanced perspective and enhance our overall well-being.


The incomplete possession fallacy, or endowment effect, reveals how our sense of ownership can distort our perception of value. By understanding this cognitive bias and its implications, we can strive for more objective decision-making, healthier relationships, and a greater appreciation for the things we possess. Let us reflect on the role of ownership in our lives and endeavor to overcome the incomplete possession fallacy to lead more fulfilling and balanced lives.


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