“Anticipated Affective Reactions – A Novel Basis for Social Decisions” by Ms. Xue Adelle YANG
Ms. Xue Adelle YANG
PhD Candidate in Marketing
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Prior research on gift giving has often treated “making recipients happy” as interchangeable with “improving recipients’ welfare.” We propose givers’ motive to make recipients happy is better understood as a desire to induce positive affective reactions, such as a smile from recipients. This “smile-seeking” motive of giving yields a mismatch between gift choices and recipients’ preferences, because attributes that promote recipient happiness upon gift reception are often not the same attributes that augment recipients’ overall welfare. We find givers' anticipation of affective reactions dominate their gift choices; by contrast, recipients' preferences for gifts reflect more balanced valuation between affective reactions and value assessment. This giver-recipient preference discrepancy cannot be explained by extant theories of perspective taking, and is mitigated when the affective reactions are not immediately obtainable. Moreover, this preference discrepancy persisted before and after gift-giving, and produced different downstream consequences for givers and recipients. Our findings challenge extant assumptions about gift-giving motives, and attest to the importance of affective reactions in interpersonal decision-making.