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Intuitions on Ownership Among the Achuar of Southeastern Ecuador


Property and ownership claims and the array of ways in which they are operationalized comprise a large portion of our cognitive attention. On a day to day basis there is a need to know what to buy, sell, share, borrow, dispute over, and render away. There remains much that is not yet known about the psychology of ownership and how it plays out in particular cultural settings. This investigation aims to assess whether people in Achuar communities in Ecuador consider food(meat), land, and artifacts to be possible domains of ownership as well as whether intuitions about claims to ownership in these domains, including the principle of first possession, are the same as in an American sample. The vignettes were designed to be culturally appropriate for Achuar participants, in domains including hunting, establishing land claims, and the creating of artifacts. The same Achuar-specific vignettes were presented to a American English speakers in order to gauge if Achuar intuitions about the claims to ownership in these domains are the same as they are in the U.S. The factors on which this study focused its analysis were designed to assess how judgments of ownership depend on the type of resource in question, and how it came to be acquired. Analysis of the findings across domains and populations reveals weak evidence for a first possessor heuristic among the Achuar and strong evidence for a first possessor heuristic with American Mturk Participants, suggesting that this might not be a cross-cultural universal.

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