To celebrate Valentine’s Day (as a geeky scientist), I decided to search the “Web of Science” database for published articles with the phrase “Valentine’s Day” in the title. The article with the most citations was “Market-resistance and Valentine’s Day events” published in the Journal of Business Research in 2009, by the authors Angeline Close and George Zinkhan. I had never heard of the journal before, but the title sounded rather interesting so I decided to read it.
The authors reported the results of a survey of college students and consumers conducted in 2003-2005 regarding their thoughts about gift-giving on Valentine’s Day:
1) Most males (63%) and some females (31%) feel obligated to give a gift to their partner for this holiday
2) Males in a new relationship (i.e. less than six months) feel most obligated (81%), females in a new relationship are the second most obligated group (50%)
3) Less than half of males (44%) in a more established relationship feel obligated, and this number is even lower for females in more established relationships (13%)
The authors also conducted interviews using open-ended questions and reviewed diaries and E-diaries to investigate whether people indicated a “resistance” to giving gifts. They found that people expressed three different types of resistance, either opposing or severely limiting the giving of gifts (gift resistance), resisting the purchase of gifts (retail resistance) or broadly opposing the Valentine’s Day business in general (market resistance). All of these forms of “resistance” appeared to be connected to an anti-consumption attitude, the desire to not be drawn into a culture of excessive consumerism.
Here are a couple of quotes from the participants:
Valentine’s Day is a marketing strategy by the flower and candy companies. It’s a cheesy, overblown, stupid “holiday” to force you to spend money on each other.
Valentine’s Day is a way for retailers to get you to spend money in their stores. People get caught up in the B.S. and I should not have to spend extra to show I care, and my girlfriend agrees. But we both still spent plenty!
The survey results indicating differences between men and women are interesting but the paper also shows that even though the majority of people in the US might feel obligated to give each other gifts on Valentine’s Day, there is a strong anti-consumption attitude. People are not willing to succumb to the pressure to spend a lot of money that ultimately benefits retailers. They are instead expressing their affection for each other in ways that do not involve purchasing expensive gifts.
If you forgot to get a Valentine’s Day gift for your partner or spouse, just print out a copy of this paper and give it to them instead, saying that your lack of gift-giving is your expression of anti-consumption resistance. If that person is just as geeky as you are, you might be able to pull it off.
There is one caveat: The Journal of Business Research is not open access, so you may hit a paywall asking for $31.50 to read the article, which is more than a typical box of chocolates. Don’t panic, fortunately, you can read it for free here.
Image credit: Early 20th century Valentine’s Day card, showing woman holding heart shaped decoration and flowers, ca. 1910 – via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain
Close, A., & Zinkhan, G. (2009). Market-resistance and Valentine’s Day events Journal of Business Research, 62 (2), 200-207 DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2008.01.027