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Your gift, but my attitude: gift-givers’ aversion to attitude-inconsistent gifts

Julian Givi (Department of Marketing, John Chambers College of Business and Economics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA)
Yumei Mu (Department of Marketing, John Chambers College of Business and Economics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 3 May 2022

Issue publication date: 24 May 2022

269

Abstract

Purpose

Gift-givers are often confronted with the possibility of choosing gifts that are inconsistent with their own attitudes (“attitude-inconsistent gifts”). For example, a gun opposer may be faced with the possibility of choosing gun paraphernalia as a gift, and a vegetarian might be forced to consider the possibility of choosing a steakhouse gift card as a gift. This study aims to compare givers’ decision-making when they are confronted with the possibility of choosing attitude-inconsistent gifts with their decision-making when they are faced with the possibility of choosing gifts that are neither inconsistent nor consistent with their attitudes (“attitude-neutral gifts”).

Design/methodology/approach

Seven experimental studies test the hypotheses. These studies have participants make decisions as givers and use a variety of gifts, giver-recipient relationships, gifting occasions and dependent variables, as well as both consequential and hypothetical decisions.

Findings

Givers strategically avoid choosing attitude-inconsistent (vs attitude-neutral) gifts, even when they believe that these kinds of gifts are the ones that recipients desire the most. This aversion emerges because givers anticipate that choosing an attitude-inconsistent (vs attitude-neutral) gift would cause them to experience a higher level of psychological discomfort.

Research limitations/implications

This research documents a novel gift-giving phenomenon (givers’ aversion to attitude-inconsistent gifts), one of the most widespread forms of intentional preference-mismatching in gift-giving (givers’ avoidance of attitude-inconsistent gifts when they believe that these kinds of gifts are the ones that recipients desire the most), and a psychological mechanism that has a strong influence on givers’ decision-making but was yet to be explored in the gift-giving literature (givers’ anticipations of psychological discomfort). Collectively, these facets improve the field’s understanding of consumer gift-giving and call into question the assumption that gift-giving is aimed predominantly at pleasing the recipient.

Practical implications

This research suggests that if gift-givers want to be more financially efficient, they should refrain from contemplating the feelings of psychological discomfort that they would experience from choosing an attitude-inconsistent gift and instead focus on selecting the gift that the recipient desires the most. Moreover, it indicates that gift-givers’ tendency to avoid preferred, attitude-inconsistent gifts can have undesirable social and well-being consequences. Finally, it suggests that firms’ bottom lines may be harmed by givers’ aversion to attitude-inconsistent gifts, and that firms selling products that are likely attitude-inconsistent for segments of consumers should think carefully about advertising those products as gifts.

Originality/value

The gift-giving literature has recently documented multiple cases of givers intentionally refraining from choosing the gifts that they believe best match recipients’ preferences. Yet, the present work shows that there was a considerable gap in this segment of the gift-giving literature. Specifically, the present research documents a previously unexplored, but highly common, instance in which intentional preference-mismatching in gift-giving occurs: whenever a potential gift is attitude-inconsistent. Moreover, this work sheds light on a psychological mechanism that plays an important role in givers’ decision-making but was yet to be explored in the gift-giving literature: givers’ anticipated feelings of psychological discomfort.

Keywords

Citation

Givi, J. and Mu, Y. (2022), "Your gift, but my attitude: gift-givers’ aversion to attitude-inconsistent gifts", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 5, pp. 1488-1511. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-02-2021-0075

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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