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(General Area of Study) Feelings of Possession at Work: A Qualitative Study of Psychological Ownership

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Brief Summary of the Core Concept to be Studied:

Psychological ownership (PO) is a feeling of ownership that can exist in the absence of legal ownership. Several different perspectives and conceptual definitions of PO have been presented in the research literature. An influential conceptualization of PO, which appears to have been studied most frequently, is Pierce et al.’s (2001; 2003) ‘possession based’ definition of PO (.i.e. this is "mine" or "ours"). Interest in PO has developed considerably over the past decade, yet many questions still remain regarding how and when feelings of PO develop, and the different forms it can take. PO can be experienced as an individual, collective and shared experience, over a wide range of possible targets (e.g. the job, a specific responsibility, the organization as a whole, a brand...etc). Pierce et al. (2001; 2003) propose three routes which, when experienced, lead to feelings of PO. These experiences include a feeling of control over the ownership target, intimate knowledge of the ownership target, and a feeling that one has invested one’s self into the target.

A number of studies have sought to understand the conditions and organizational experiences that are needed in order for employees to experience the proposed routes to PO. In some studies, it is theorized that the work environment structure and job-design have a significant effect on the development of PO. Specifically, low levels of work environment structure, high levels of job autonomy and participative decision-making are believed to be important conditions which help develop feelings of PO over the organization (Pierce, Jussila & Cummings, 2009; Pierce, O’Driscoll, & Coghlan, 2004).

Regarding PO’s impact, while affective commitment has been investigated in some PO studies, continuance and normative components of commitment have been examined less frequently as outcomes of PO. There is, however, some evidence supporting PO’s relationship with both continuance and affective commitment (e.g., Mayhew et al., 2007; O’Driscoll et al., 2006; Van Dyne & Pierce, 2004; VandeWalle et al., 1995). In relation to employee motivation, Pierce et al. (1991) suggested the perception of gains and losses associated with the employees’ current or future equity, as well as their influence and informational rights, may have a motivational effect. However, PO’s capacity to enhance employee motivation is another area in which research evidence is lacking. Similarly, a small number of studies have attempted to test PO’s relationship with employee satisfaction.

The work you conduct for your Ph.D. will be related to psychological ownership:

The project to be undertaken will require the student to conduct a thorough literature review of psychological ownership (in the context of the workplace), to uncover gaps in knowledge. The student will design a qualitative study addressing an important gap in need of more research. The student will be able to develop their own interests within the topic of PO. The specific project details and research questions will depend on discussions and discoveries made during the first phase of the project.

Key Requirements:

- For applicants who haven’t completed a degree in English: English language ability (reading, writing, speaking and listening) IELTS band 6 or above (or equivalent), with not less than 6 in each component.
- An interest in qualitative methods.
- A Master’s degree in business, psychology, human resource management or a related discipline.

To apply to be advised by me on this project, please send me the following (using the form below or directly by e-mail):

1. Your CV: Please include your full name and nationality, English language test results (if applicable), academic and vocational qualifications (with school/university names, start/end dates, and grades), work experience (with start/end dates and a brief explanation of duties) and your achievements. Please also state your current country of residence in your CV.

2. Up to 700 words: Why would you like to study for a Ph.D.? Please do not exceed 700 words.

If/when accepted by the Advisor (Dr. McConville) you will be invited to complete the University application process. Your application will then be considered by the Institute of Human Resource Management Ph.D. Admission Committee. If passed, you will then be offered a start date.
Currently students start their Ph.D. study in September each year.

Funding Notes

Currently, support is available to help you study at National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) in Taiwan.

International Applicants (funding from the Office of International Affairs at NSYSU):

1. Tuition waiver for up to 3 academic years. You do not pay tuition fees for up to 3 years (usually around 54,140 NT$ per semester).

2. Monthly stipend of 15,000 NT$ for the 1st semester. This can be renewed every semester, for 3 academic years (maximum) subject to academic progress..

Local students + those who do not qualify as international applicants: please contact the University to check funding/scholarship options.


Recent PO Papers Published by Dr. McConville:

McConville, D., Arnold, J. and Smith, A. (2016), Employee share ownership, psychological ownership, and work attitudes and behaviours: A phenomenological analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89(3), 634–655. (SSCI; ABS 4) 2016 Impact Factor: 3.139. (2016 JIF Quartile 1; 9/80 in Psychology, Applied)

Han, T. S., Chiang, H. H., McConville, D., and Chiang, C. L. (2015). A Longitudinal Investigation of Person–Organization Fit, Person–Job Fit, and Contextual Performance: The Mediating Role of Psychological Ownership. Human Performance, 28(5), 425-439. (SSCI; ABS 3) 2016 Impact Factor: 1.302. (2016 JIF Quartile 3; 49/80 in Psychology, Applied).

Chiang, H. H., Chang, A., Han, T. S., and McConville, D. (2013). Corporate branding, brand psychological ownership and brand citizenship behaviour: multilevel analysis and managerial implications. Journal of General Management, 39(1), 55-80. (ESCI, Clarivate Analytics: Emerging Sources Citation Index, ABS 2).

Other Key References:

Mayhew, M. G., Ashkanasy, N. M., Bramble, T., & Gardner, J. (2007). A study of the antecedents and consequences of psychological ownership in organizational settings. The Journal of Social Psychology, 147(5), 477-500.

O’Driscoll, M. P., Pierce, J. L., & Coghlan, A. M. (2006). The psychology of ownership: Work environment structure, organizational commitment, and citizenship behaviors. Group & Organization Management, 31(3), 388-416.

Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., & Dirks, K. T. (2001). Toward a theory of psychological ownership in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 298-310.

Pierce, J. L., Kostova, T., & Dirks, K. T. (2003). The state of psychological ownership: Integrating and extending a century of research. Review of General Psychology, 7(1), 84.

Pierce, J. L., O'Driscoll, M. P., & Coghlan, A. M. (2004). Work environment structure and psychological ownership: The mediating effects of control. The Journal of Social Psychology, 144(5), 507-534.

Pierce, J. L., Jussila, I., & Cummings, A. (2009). Psychological ownership within the job design context: Revision of the job characteristics model. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 30(4), 477-496.

Van Dyne, L., & Pierce, J. L. (2004). Psychological ownership and feelings of possession: Three field studies predicting employee attitudes and organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior: The International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, 25(4), 439-459.

Vandewalle, D., Van Dyne, L., & Kostova, T. (1995). Psychological ownership: An empirical examination of its consequences. Group & Organization Management, 20(2), 210-226.

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