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
Date Written: January 14, 2016
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
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