Smile-Seeking Givers and Value-Seeking Recipients: Why Gift Choices and Recipient Preferences Diverge

67 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016

See all articles by Adelle Xue Yang

Adelle Xue Yang

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Oleg Urminsky

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Prior research on gift giving has often treated “making recipients happy” as interchangeable with “improving recipients’ welfare.” We propose givers’ motive to make recipients happy is better understood as a desire to induce positive affective reactions, such as a smile from recipients. This “smile-seeking” motive yields a mismatch between gift choices and recipients’ preferences, because attributes that promote recipient happiness upon gift reception are often not the same attributes that augment recipients’ overall welfare. We find a considerable givers-recipients preference discrepancy that cannot be explained by extant theories of perspective taking (Studies 1 & 2), is mitigated when the affective reactions are not immediately obtainable (Studies 3 & 4), and is mediated by the anticipation of these affective reactions (Studies 4 & 5). Moreover, in a longitudinal field survey (Study 6), givers derive more enjoyment from their observation of the recipients’ initial affective reactions than from their observation of recipients’ long-term satisfaction. Our findings challenge extant assumptions about gift-giving motives, and attest to the importance of affective reactions in interpersonal decision making.

Keywords: gift giving, affective reactions, visceral vs. cerebral attributes, interpersonal decisions, hedonic choice, intertemporal choice

Suggested Citation

Yang, Adelle Xue and Urminsky, Oleg, Smile-Seeking Givers and Value-Seeking Recipients: Why Gift Choices and Recipient Preferences Diverge (2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2733341 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2733341

Adelle Xue Yang

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

Oleg Urminsky (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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