Eesha Sharma is Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Professor Sharma’s research revolves around consumer financial wellbeing, and how psychology and marketing can be used to understand and improve it. She is particularly interested in how people react to perceived scarcity, poverty, and deprivation—both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Using behavioral experiments and field studies, she examines topics such as: how people behave when they feel poor, why people give to charity, and what factors may improve and/or worsen consumer financial decision making. Her work has been published in journals including Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. She earned a BSc in Finance and Marketing, an MPhil, and a PhD in Marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to academia, she worked as an investment banking analyst in the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) at Goldman Sachs.
The current research introduces the concept of psychological ownership of money, the notion that consumers view money to differing degrees as their own. We suggest that this concept is particularly interesting and important in the realm of consumer debt, where consumers use borrowed money. We show that individuals naturally vary in the extent to which they experience psychological ownership of money they can borrow. Moreover, this construct is distinct from other individual-level factors such as debt aversion, financial literacy, income, intertemporal discount rates, materialism, propensity to plan, and self-control, and predicts willingness to incur debt above and beyond those factors. We further show that psychological ownership of borrowed money can be shaped by contextual factors. Specifically, we document systematic differences in psychological ownership of borrowed money across debt forms and show that these differences explain consumers’ interest in borrowing using those debt forms. Finally, we find that differences in psychological ownership of borrowed money manifest in online search behavior, and can be leveraged to predict patterns of online search behavior for different debt forms.