Summary of Special Session Self-Gifts: an Emerging Category of Consumer Behavior From Multiple Perspectives

David Mick, University of Florida
[ to cite ]:
David Mick (1993) ,"Summary of Special Session Self-Gifts: an Emerging Category of Consumer Behavior From Multiple Perspectives", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 546.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Page 546



David Mick, University of Florida

This special session was organized by David Mick and chaired by Ed Petkus. It was attended by approximately 30 persons. The purpose of this session was to extend self-gift research and knowledge development by bringing together several researchers who would look upon the topic from multiple viewpoints.

The first paper by McGrath, Sherry, and Levy emanated from a cultural-anthropological and motivational-research perspective. Using sentence completion tasks and a story-telling technique, these researchers found that magic, mystery, ambivalence, and indulgence are associated with self-gifts, just as they are with interpersonal gifts. Guilt emerged as a potential consequence, more so than in prior research, whereas themes of self-esteem, specialness, and perfect choices were also discerned, corroborating prior findings by Mick and DeMoss.

The second paper by Olshavsky and Lee offered an information processing explanation of self-gifts based on meta-cognitionB awareness of one's own cognitive processesCwhich implies the dimension of self-communication in self-gifts. The authors argue that if a person is aware of his/her cognitive state, then that person can influence the cognitive/emotional integrity of his/her information processing system through self-gift behavior. They conclude that, while a new theory to explain self-gifts is unnecessary, the major contribution of self-gift research has been the recognition of a new consumer motivation that cannot be readily traced to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

The third paper by Faure and Mick reviewed prior self-gift research and Weiner's attribution theory of motivation and emotion to derive several predictions about self-gift likelihood following achievement task outcomes. For example, they proposed that certain emotions (e.g., pride, guilt) and a sense of deservingness will mediate the influence of achievement outcomes (success/failure) and causal attributions (locus, controllability) on self-gift likelihood. They also discuss different methodological options for testing their hypotheses.

The fourth paper by Shapiro reported survey results that indicated that individuals with an internal (external) locus of control engage in more (less) therapeutic self-gift behavior. He explained this finding in terms of Deci's self-determination theory, i.e., internals may be more inclined to take action to repair their emotional states with therapeutic self-gifts.

The discussant for this special session, Dennis Rook, raised several important questions about the concept and research of self-gifts. For example, he asked "If you manage to get someone else to buy you a gift that you really want, is it a self-gift?" The possibility of compulsive therapeutic self-gifts was also raised in discussion, and Mick argued that this notion is oxymoronic, i.e., any gifting activity that is out of control is probably not perceived by the gift recipient as authentic gift giving. Rook concluded by calling for more grounded theory and naturalistic research on self-gifts.