It’s Not Me, It’s You: How Gift Giving Creates Giver Identity Threat as a Function of Social Closeness
Prior research has established that consumers are motivated to purchase identity-consistent products. We extend consumer identity research into an important consumer context, gift giving, in which individuals may make product choices that run counter to their own identities in order to fulfill the desires of the intended recipient. We find that purchasing an identity-contrary gift for a close (vs. distant) friend who is an integral part of the self can itself cause an identity threat to the giver. Four experiments in a gift registry context show that after making an identity-contrary gift choice for a close (vs. distant) friend, givers subsequently engage in behaviors that reestablish their identity such as indicating greater identity affiliation with the threatened identity and greater likelihood to purchase identity-expressive products. This research highlights the opposing forces that product purchase may exert on consumer identity as both a potential threat and means of self-verification.
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