Smile-Seeking Givers and Value-Seeking Recipients: Why Gift Choices and Recipient Preferences Diverge
67 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2015
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
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