Compulsive Buying and Self-Gifts: a Motivational Perspective

Jon M. Shapiro, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
[ to cite ]:
Jon M. Shapiro (1993) ,"Compulsive Buying and Self-Gifts: a Motivational Perspective", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 557.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Page 557


Jon M. Shapiro, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Giving gifts are a positive experience for most consumers since they help enhance one's self-concept and affective state (Mick and DeMoss 1990). However, the desire to buy self-gifts may become a compulsion for some consumers. This study reviews the gift-giving, self-gift giving and compulsive buying literature and explains the link between self-gift giving and compulsive buying.

The relationship between locus-of-control, loneliness, and compulsive therapeutic self-gift giving was examined in a survey. It was found that consumers with an internal locus-of-control (Rotter 1966), who tend to attribute reinforcements to personal behavior, are more likely to be frequent, compulsive buyers of therapeutic self-gifts. Deci's (1980) theory of intrinsic motivation provides an explanation for this relationship. Due to their belief in a strong link between effort and reinforcement, people with an internal locus-of-control respond more readily to intrinsic and extrinsic cues. They are motivated to buy because they believe their efforts will lead to a desired result.

Lonely consumers were found to be less likely to engage in this form of compulsive consumption. Apparently, their overall lack of motivation keeps them from participating in the buying environment. Further study of the relationship between locus-of-control and compulsive self-gift giving may offer consumer researchers and clinical psychologists new means of aiding compulsive buyers.


Deci Edward L. (1980), The Psychology of Self-Determination, Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books.

Hancock, Barry W. (1986), Loneliness: Symptoms and Social Causes", New York, University Press of America.

Mick, David Glen and Michelle DeMoss (1990), "Self-Gifts: Phenomenological Insights from Four Contexts," Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (3), 322-332.

Rotter, J.B. (1966), "Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement," Psychological Monographs, 80, 1-28.

Solano, Cecilia H (1989), "Loneliness and Perceptions of Control" in "Loneliness: Theory, Research, and Applications" ed. Mohammadreza Hojat and Rick Crandall, London, Sage.