Ask and You Shall (Not) Receive: Close Friends Prioritize Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preferences in Their Gift Choices

Ward, Morgan and Susan Broniarczyk (2016), Ask and You Shall (Not) Receive: Close Friends Prioritize Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preferences in their Gift Choices, The Journal of Marketing Research, (Forthcoming).

Posted: 25 Apr 2016

See all articles by Morgan Ward

Morgan Ward

Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Susan M. Broniarczyk

University of Texas at Austin - Marketing

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 14, 2016

Abstract

Gift givers balance their goal to please recipients with gifts that match recipients’ preferences against their goal to signal relational closeness with gifts that demonstrate their knowledge of the recipient. Five studies in a gift registry context show that when close (vs. distant) givers receive attribution for the gifts they choose, they are more likely to diverge from the registry to choose items that signal their close relationships. We find that close givers’ divergence from the registry is not the result of their altruistic search for a “better” gift, but a strategic effort to express relational signals, as it occurs only when they will receive attribution for their choice. We show that close givers reconcile their goal conflict by engaging in motivated reasoning, which results in their perceptual distortion of the gift options in favor of relationally signaling gifts. Ironically, distant givers are more likely to choose gifts from the registry, resulting in the selection of items that better match recipients’ preferences.

Keywords: gift giving, social closeness, goal conflict, motivated reasoning, relational-signaling

Suggested Citation

Ward, Morgan and Broniarczyk, Susan M., Ask and You Shall (Not) Receive: Close Friends Prioritize Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preferences in Their Gift Choices (January 14, 2016). Ward, Morgan and Susan Broniarczyk (2016), Ask and You Shall (Not) Receive: Close Friends Prioritize Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preferences in their Gift Choices, The Journal of Marketing Research, (Forthcoming). . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2758923

Morgan Ward (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University (SMU) ( email )

6212 Bishop Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Susan M. Broniarczyk

University of Texas at Austin - Marketing ( email )

2110 Speedway Stop B6700
McCombs School of Business
Austin, TX 78712-1275
United States

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