When Gift-Giving Is Selfish: A Motivation to Be Unique

Posted: 9 Jul 2015

See all articles by Jeff Galak

Jeff Galak

Carnegie Mellon University

Julian Givi

West Virginia University

Date Written: July 7, 2015


Gift givers are faced with the difficult task of choosing gifts that will be liked by gift recipients, and the challenging nature of this task often leads gift givers to unintentionally give poor gifts. The results of seven lab and field studies across 1,513 participants suggest that this failure on the part of gift givers is not always unintentional. Rather, it seems that gift givers possess a need for uniqueness and that this longing often leads them to knowingly give poor gifts. The present research demonstrates a robust effect in which gift givers, in some contexts, give gift recipients inferior gifts, because gift givers have a selfish motive in that they want their own possessions to feel unique. Conversely, when given the opportunity to choose between gifts for the self, gift recipients ignore this need for uniqueness in favor of obtaining an optimal gift. This effect holds across a variety of gifts, and gift-giving paradigms.

Keywords: gift-giving, need for uniqueness, uniqueness seeking, self-other decision making

Suggested Citation

Galak, Jeff and Givi, Julian, When Gift-Giving Is Selfish: A Motivation to Be Unique (July 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2627857

Jeff Galak (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-5810 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.jeffgalak.com

Julian Givi

West Virginia University ( email )

John Chambers College of Business and Economics
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

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