The endowment effect—the tendency for owners (potential sellers) to value objects more than potential buyers do—is among the most widely studied judgment and decision-making phenomena. However, the current research is the first to explore whether the effect varies across cultures. Given previously demonstrated cultural differences in self-construals and self-enhancement, we predicted a smaller endowment effect for East Asians compared with Westerners. Two studies involving buyers and sellers of a coffee mug (Study 1a) and a box of chocolates (Study 1b) supported this prediction. Study 2 conceptually replicated this cultural difference by experimentally manipulating independent and interdependent self-construals. Finally, Study 3 provided evidence for an underlying self-enhancement mechanism: Cultural differences emerged when self-object associations were made salient, but disappeared when self-object associations were minimized. Thus, the endowment effect may be influenced by the degree to which independence and self-enhancement (vs. interdependence and self-criticism) are culturally valued or normative.
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