You are more likely to skimp on a Valentine Day gift while choosing it for a loved one if it comes with a free gift, finds a new study which may have implications for merchants, retailers and marketers.
Just as people are more likely to give more to close friends than to strangers, people may be more likely to give less to close friends than to strangers if there is a mutual overall benefit for doing so, said the study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"The tendency is rooted in a friendly intention of trying to maximise the total benefits for the pair, or the so-called "self-other collective,'" said the team from universities of Chicago and Florida.
To understand this, seven experiments were conducted to explore different kinds of relationships - including naturally occurring friendships and those developed in the lab.
The activities in the experiments included sampling chocolates, getting massages, sharing cabs and choosing airline mileage programmes.
The results of each experiment supported the hypothesis that because people focus on total benefits when making decisions about how to allocate resources between themselves and people they're close to, they choose the option that benefits themselves.
In one experiment, 63 University of Chicago undergraduates were invited to enter a raffle in which each winner and one person they knew would sample gourmet chocolate truffles.
They had to choose between two differently distributed prizes.
In Package A, the winner would receive seven truffles and the other person three, for a total of 10 truffles.
In Package B, the winner would receive two truffles and the other person six, for a total of 8 truffles. The truffles could not be shared.
When participants knew they'd sample the truffles with someone they felt close to, almost two-thirds chose the package where they would receive more truffles.
But when participants anticipated sampling truffles with someone they felt less close to, the fraction flipped, and only about one-third chose that option.
Although consumers generally spend more on gifts for people they are close to, the researchers say, "they might also be more influenced by discounts, sales, and other saving opportunities" when buying for those loved ones.