Over-Individuation in Gift Giving: Shopping for Multiple Recipients Leads Givers to Choose Unique but Less Preferred Gifts

60 Pages Posted: 11 May 2011 Last revised: 9 Aug 2014

Mary Steffel

Northeastern University

Robyn A. LeBoeuf

Washington University in St. Louis

Date Written: January 5, 2014

Abstract

This research examines how the social context in which gifts are selected influences gift choices. Six experiments show that, when givers select gifts for multiple recipients, they tend to pass up gifts that would be better liked by one or more recipients in favor of giving different gifts to each recipient, even when recipients will not compare gifts. This over-individuation does not seem to arise because givers perceive recipients’ preferences differently when they consider them together versus separately: although givers’ gift selections differ between a one-recipient and multiple-recipient context, their perceptions of which gifts would be better liked do not. Rather, over-individuation seems to arise because givers try to be thoughtful by treating each recipient as unique. Consistent with this, givers are more likely to over-individuate when they are encouraged to be thoughtful. Focusing givers on recipients’ preferences reduces overindividuation and can help givers select better liked gifts.

Keywords: gift giving, judgment and decision making, consumer decision making, consumer behavior

Suggested Citation

Steffel, Mary and LeBoeuf, Robyn A., Over-Individuation in Gift Giving: Shopping for Multiple Recipients Leads Givers to Choose Unique but Less Preferred Gifts (January 5, 2014). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 40, No. 6, 2014, pp. 1167-1180. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1836697 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1836697

Mary Steffel

Northeastern University ( email )

MA
United States
646-831-6508 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://mary-steffel.squarespace.com

Robyn A. LeBoeuf (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

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