advertisement
Home » News » When Gift-Giving Goes Against Who We Are

When Gift-Giving Goes Against Who We Are

Holiday shoppers beware: A new study suggests purchasing a gift for someone that threatens our own identity can lead us to buy another item to reaffirm identity.

For example, if a vegetarian has to buy a steakhouse gift certificate for a friend, her discomfort may well lead her to buy something else that reaffirms her identity.

“When gift-givers choose a gift that matches the identity of the recipient but is contrary to their own identity, they experience discomfort,” according to authors Morgan K. Ward, Ph.D., (Southern Methodist University) and Susan M. Broniarczyk, Ph.D., (University of Texas at Austin).

This discomfort leads consumers to choose other products that express their identities.

The study is found in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors investigated the consequences for gift-givers when the gifts threaten one of two central identities: school affiliation or political identity.

In their studies, the researchers told participants to imagine they were choosing a gift for a recipient who had created a gift registry. In one experiment, gift givers from the University of Texas at Austin (the “Longhorns”) chose gifts for a close friend that attended either their own school or a rival school (Texas A&M, home of the “Aggies”).

The gifts on the registry were emblazoned with the schools’ emblems.

“While making a gift choice, the givers of the rival Texas A&M gift were more likely to exhibit physical signs of discomfort such as chewing on their lips, averting their eyes, fidgeting, and crossing their arms,” the authors wrote. At the checkout, Longhorns fans distanced themselves physically from their Aggies purchases.

After they purchased the gifts, Longhorn-identified participants were then offered either an expensive silver pen or a cheap plastic pen with the Longhorn logo on it. Longhorn fans who gave the University of Texas gift were confident in their identities and much more likely to choose the more attractive silver pen for themselves.

In contrast, Longhorn fans who purchased the rival Texas A&M gift were more likely to choose the cheap plastic Longhorn pen in order to reestablish their identities.

The authors also found that Democrats asked to choose gifts at odds with their political identities were more likely to choose a subscription to the New York Times, whereas Republicans who chose items emblazoned with donkeys chose the more conservative Wall Street Journal.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

When Gift-Giving Goes Against Who We Are

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). When Gift-Giving Goes Against Who We Are. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/24/when-gift-giving-goes-against-who-we-are/22131.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.