The dilemma of the gift registry : how social closeness intensifies it

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Ward, Morgan Kraft

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When choosing a gift, the gift-giver has three distinct but interdependent goals: the item must 1) satisfy the recipient 2) be self-reflective for the gift-giver, and 3) indicate the nature of the relationship between the giver and the recipient. However, these goals are often mutually exclusive, making it infeasible for the giver to meet both his/her own and the recipient’s needs with his/her gift choices. In both essays we look at how the important moderator of social closeness between the giver and recipient influences givers’ prioritization of these goals.
In Essay 1, we constrain givers to choose from a gift registry and posit that purchasing an identity-incongruent product can threaten an individual’s identity, particularly when purchasing for a close (vs. distant) friend who is an integral part of the self. Five experiments in the context of gift registry show that givers choosing identity-incongruent gifts for a close (vs. distant) friend experience an identity threat and seek to re-establish their shaken identities by endorsing the threatened identity and choosing identity-expressive products in subsequent decisions. In Essay 2 we loosen the constraints of the gift choice and allow givers to choose or reject the gift registry. Our main hypothesis is that when choosing for a close (vs. distant) friend, the giver will discount the recipient’s explicit preferences in favor of a gift that signals the giver’s identity or the relationship between them. However, prior research indicates that close friends choose inaccurately for one another as they conflate their own preferences with those of the recipients’. Thus we suggest that since givers are more likely to make a free choice (vs. registry choice) for a close (vs. distant) friend, they face an increased likelihood of choosing a less desirable gift for their close friends.




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