Washington, July 2 : Individuals tend to think that their favorite possessions, such as a car, should fetch more money, but they balk at paying the same price when the items belong to someone else. Now, researchers at the Stanford University have linked this so-called 'endowment effect' to a brain region responsible for our fear of loss.
The "endowment effect," violates rational choice theory, which states that ownership should not influence preferences.
Watching the subjects' brains with an fMRI (neuroimaging) machine, the research team found that activity in the nucleus accumbens, which signals how much we like an object, did not increase when the new car belonged to the subject.
But the right insular, which warns us about possible loss, became more active when the car became "my car", reports LiveScience.
While this suggests we are more motivated to protect our belongings out of fear than enjoyment, ownership may still have some intrinsic value.
As for the reason, why we are afraid of losing stuff, the researchers said it's the brain to be blamed for such behaviour.
The human brain is "ancient machinery in a modern time," Knutson explained.
In our evolutionary beginnings, our possessions were basically limited to territory and kin - "belongings" critical to species survival and worth fighting to protect. This out-dated brain circuitry could be causing us to over-react when a sweater goes missing or a vase breaks, says Knutson.
And prompting us to stand idly by as our homes become overrun with accumulated stuff, he adds.
According to Knutson, we can get better at assessing the true worth of our possessions.
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Neuron.