Keeping the Joneses from getting ahead in the first place: Envy’s influence on gift giving behavior

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See all articles by Julian Givi

Julian Givi

West Virginia University

Jeff Galak

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: April 29, 2019

Abstract

Past research in gift giving has largely treated asymmetries between the types of gifts givers give and the ones recipients prefer to receive as unintentional errors on the part of givers. In contrast, we show that givers sometimes intentionally bypass gifts that they know will bring the most joy and happiness to their recipients. Specifically, we demonstrate that givers dislike giving gifts that compare favorably to their own possessions, because they feel that doing so would lead them to experience envy and thus become less satisfied with their own possessions. Consequently, they instead opt for other gifts that are not superior to their own possessions and thus do not negatively impact their liking of their own possessions. Critically, givers sometimes opt for these alternative gifts even in cases where they know they are less preferred by recipients. Theoretical contributions and practical implications are discussed.

Keywords: gift giving, envy, self-other decision making; prosocial behavior, social comparisons.

Suggested Citation

Givi, Julian and Galak, Jeff, Keeping the Joneses from getting ahead in the first place: Envy’s influence on gift giving behavior (April 29, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Julian Givi (Contact Author)

West Virginia University ( email )

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

Jeff Galak

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

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

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

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