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December 18, 2015

Study: Socially Responsible Gifts Mostly Please the Giver

New research suggests that recipients of socially responsible holiday gifts, such as fair-trade products and charity donations in a person's name, appreciate them less than the givers expect, The Wall Street Journal and New York magazine write. The gap in perception is more acute when the recipient is an acquaintance rather than a close friend of the giver, said University of Southern California business professor Lisa Cavanaugh, lead author of a recently published paper on socially responsible presents.

Researchers conducted experiments in which people chose between giving a donation to Oxfam or a more traditional present. They were more likely to give the donation to someone they didn't know as well, and those recipients appreciated the charitable gift less than those closer to the giver, viewing it as a symbol of lesser personal commitment than the traditional gift.

"Even though we may try to be thoughtful, there is a tendency to see gifts we give through our own eyes," Ms. Cavanaugh said. “In some sense, associating with a socially responsible gift may be an unconscious way to make the giver look better."