Don't let pressure of one-upmanship dictate your gift selection

February 01, 2021

There is a considerable gap in our current understanding of gift-giving because much of what has been studied has focused on gift-giving as an affair between just two consumers--a single giver and a recipient. Little is known about the impact other gifts have on the recipient of the gifts, even though some of the most common occasions for giving a gift, such as birthdays, the winter holidays, Mothers' and Fathers' Day, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, going away parties, and retirement parties, all typically involve a recipient receiving gifts from several different givers.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business and West Virginia University's John Chambers College of Business and Economics set out to understand gift giving dynamics in these settings and how a giver's and a recipient's evaluation of the giver's gift is influenced by the other gifts the recipient receives.

Across 12 studies examining the behavior of giving and receiving gifts in a multi-giver gift giving setting, the researchers demonstrated that recipients are consistently focused on the thoughtfulness of a gift. Gift givers, however, incorrectly assume recipients' focus is on relative gift value.

"We found that, often times, gift givers believe the recipient's focus is on relative gift value. For example, if I gave one bottle of cheap wine as a gift, but another person gave a bottle of expensive wine, I would incorrectly assume that the recipient would appreciate the gesture of giving the expensive bottle more than mine," said
-end-
Summarized from "The thought that counts is the one we ignore: How givers overestimate the importance of relative gift value" (doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.10.009), by Julian Givi (West Virginia University), Jeff Galak (Carnegie Mellon University) and Christopher Olivola (Carnegie Mellon University). It appears in the , Volume 123, Feb. 2021, published by
Carnegie Mellon University

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