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 perceive money in differing degrees as their own. We suggest that this concept is particularly 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, and variation on this dimension predicts willingness to borrow for discretionary purchases. Moreover, this construct is distinct from other individual-level factors such as debt aversion, financial literacy, income, intertemporal discounting, materialism, propensity to plan, and self-control, and it predicts willingness to borrow above and beyond these factors. We further show that psychological ownership of borrowed money is shaped by context. Specifically, we document systematic differences in psychological ownership across debt types that can be used for discretionary purchases, and show that these differences explain consumers’ interest in borrowing. Finally, we find that differences in psychological ownership manifest in online search behavior, and can be leveraged to predict patterns of online search behavior for different debt types.