Keeping the Joneses from getting ahead in the first place: Envy’s influence on gift giving behavior
47 Pages Posted:
Date Written: April 29, 2019
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.
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