you're never too busy for self-gifting, study finds
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

People who are feeling tense due to demands at work or home tend not to reward themselves with gifts, new research finds—even though a new product or visit to the spa might be exactly what they need.

“When people are anxious about money and time pressures, they believe that they won’t be able to focus on the self-gift experience and therefore won’t benefit, and so they don’t take opportunities to self-gift,” said Jacqueline Rifkin, assistant professor at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business and lead author of “No Bandwidth to Self-Gift: How Feeling Constrained Discourages Self-Gifting,” which published Nov. 15 in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“For example,” Rifkin said, “if you were offered an opportunity to get a massage during a particularly busy time of year, would you do it? We find probably not, because you figure you’d be too stressed out and distracted, and wouldn’t actually be able to relax.

“The unfortunate paradox though, is that this way of thinking is counterproductive to wellness. It’s when we’re feeling the most crunched that individuals can actually benefit most from self-gifting,” she said.

Rifkin and her co-authors, Kelley Gullo Wight, assistant professor of marketing at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, and Keisha M. Cutright, associate professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, started the study in 2018 and ran a series of experiments over the course of several years. The paper was conducted using behavioral experiments, both online and in person in a behavioral lab.

The researchers looked at time, money and mental health pressures, and how they all can make us less interested in self-gifting. In one experiment, they showed participants an ad for a fictional product and gaged their interest levels. For half of participants, they added a self-gifting tagline, which encouraged the product to be consumed with a happiness-based intention—”Carve out me-time,” for instance, or “create a special moment.”

They found that when participants felt more stressed about squeezed budgets, busy schedules, or lengthy to-do-lists, they were less interested in the products with self-gifting taglines. They purchased fewer of the items and indicated lower interest in trying them out. When asked why, people indicated that they wouldn’t be able to really enjoy the experience.

Rifkin and her colleagues became especially curious if this line of thinking was right, or if people were accidentally undercutting their own happiness. They followed up with studies where people engaged in self-gifting experiences—attempting to create the special moment—to see how it affected their happiness. Here, they found that the people who were initially feeling stressed were much happier and more relaxed after self-gifting. They felt less stressed and less crunched for time.

“It was pretty interesting to have a project that carried over from before the pandemic to during, since we had to move all our experimental paradigms online, and also adapt to the fact that people completely changed how they were thinking about self-gifting, self-care and their resources,” Rifkin said. “More broadly, though, I think this is an opportunity for business professionals to use their influence to positively encourage or ‘nudge’ consumers to engage in behaviors that will enhance their well-being, like self-gifting.”

Rifkin said the new research benefits not only consumers, but helps anyone in the wellness industry think more precisely about how to market self-gifting-oriented products. For example, the types of products that tend to be marketed as self-gifts— such as face masks and essential oil diffusers—should not be paired with language that evokes constraint or scarcity (e.g., one-day only sale; items are going fast), which goes against classic marketing stratagems.

Instead, marketers can use language in their communications to encourage consumers to treat themselves, even when they don’t think they have the bandwidth to do so.

“My hope is that understanding these findings can help people challenge some of their internal narratives about when is vs. isn’t a good time to do something for yourself,” Rifkin said. “I know I have tried to change my habits a bit as a result of our research findings.”

More information: Jacqueline R Rifkin et al, No Bandwidth to Self-Gift: How Feeling Constrained Discourages Self-Gifting, Journal of Consumer Research (2022). DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucac053

Journal information: Journal of Consumer Research

Provided by Cornell University

Citation: You’re never too busy for self-gifting, study finds (2022, December 7) retrieved 7 December 2022 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.


TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

TikTok is one of the most popular social networks out there. But TikTok is also a cause of concern for western governments that worry about the company’s ties to the Chinese government. TikTok can’t run on most devices the US government issues, and there has been talk of a ...

View more: TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Samsung Display via The Verge The world of foldable phones is surprisingly stagnant. The Galaxy Z Fold gets a tiny little upgrade every year, and rival phone brands loosely copy Samsung’s homework. But a new Samsung Display prototype called the “Flex In & Out” could turn this narrative on ...

View more: Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Cutting the cord on cable television is something tons of people have done over the past five years. But that hasn’t proven to be the smartest way to continue to watch sports. Whether it comes from premium sports website subscriptions to keep tabs on your favorite players, or even fantasy ...

View more: Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

The first MCU Phase 5 movie will be Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third installment in the Ant-Man franchise and a film with much higher stakes than the previous episodes. The sequel will deliver the MCU’s first Kang (Jonathan Majors) villain after we met a somewhat good He Who ...

View more: Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

DANIEL CONSTANTE/ Netflix is about to get serious in its efforts to eliminate freeloaders. If you share a Netflix account with family or friends outside your household, get ready to pay for it. A new “paid sharing” system could roll out starting next month, and you’ll have to pay a ...

View more: Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

Asmodee and Repos Production Board game lovers have a wonderful reason to celebrate today. Board game makers Asmodee and Repos Production announced their latest collaboration: 7 Wonders Edifice, an expansion to the popular board game 7 Wonders. The game launches on February 24th for $29.99. 7 Wonders: Edifice adds ...

View more: ‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

r.classen / In a press release, T-Mobile confirms that it detected a data breach in its systems on January 5th. A “bad actor” managed to steal personal information (but not financial data) from around 37 million customers. This is the eighth T-Mobile data breach since 2018. The hacker ...

View more: T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Apple has filed an appeal against the UK’s competition watchdog regarding its dominance of mobile browsers in the cloud gaming market, reports Reuters. The Competition and Markets Authority started investigating this dominance by the Cupertino firm and Google. Lawyers representing Apple believe the investigation should be reviewed as CMA ...

View more: Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Galaxy S23 Ultra release date and specs leak finally reveals everything about the new model

WhatsApp for iOS rolling out the ability to create a chat with yourself

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited changes streaming prices, now matches Apple Music

Deadpool 3 and Secret Wars to feature Fox’s X-Men, according to Marvel insider

Report: OLED iPad Pro still on track for 2024 release, 2026 for MacBook Pro

How to negotiate over practically anything

HomePod 2 praised in exclusive hands-on before launch

M2 Pro MacBook Pro Amazon preorder deal gives you $50 off

What “choice” means for millions of women post-Roe

Singapore FinTech firm Pilon secures $5.2M seed funding led by Wavemaker Partners

Capital Square Partners and Basil Technology team up for $700M tech fund in Asia

This feel-good movie about man’s best friend is dominating Netflix


Top Car News Car News