The role of the variety-seeking trait in purchases made for others

Date of Completion

January 2005


Business Administration, Marketing




This dissertation investigates the effects of a person's own variety-seeking trait on purchases made for others (e.g., gift-giving decisions). Specifically, I explore whether and when an individual's variety-seeking tendency influences heterogeneity in his/her consideration sets for gifts as well as final gift decisions. For example, everything else being equal, is it the case that high (vs. low) variety-seeking consumers are more likely to consider gift alternatives that come from distinctly different product categories? ^ The theoretical framework underlying the dissertation is based on a synthesis of concepts from Optimal Stimulation Level (OSL) theory and prior research in consumer decision-making. The empirical part of the dissertation consists of four experiments. In the first three experiments, the focus is on the relationship between the variety-seeking trait and the degree of heterogeneity in gift consideration sets. In these experiments, I also examine the role of two hypothesized moderating variables, (1) regulatory goals, and (2) assortment structure. In the fourth experiment, the research is extended into the influence of the variety-seeking trait on final gift decisions; in this study, participants are given a budget constraint and have the option to choose either a single gift or a set of gifts. ^ The results of the experiments provide reliable evidence that variety-seeking individuals form more heterogeneous consideration sets when buying gifts for others. Further, as hypothesized, the effect of the variety-seeking trait on the composition of gift consideration sets is attenuated in the presence of a prevention (vs. promotion) regulatory focus. However, contrary to expectations, the manner of organization of the assortment of available gift products does not significantly moderate the effect of the variety-seeking trait. The results also show that high (vs. low) variety-seeking consumers even prefer more heterogeneity in their final gift decisions. Specifically, when faced with identical budget constraints, high variety-seekers are more likely to give several moderately-priced, diverse gift items rather than fewer, more expensive products. Implications and future research directions are discussed in regard to variety-seeking consumer behavior and the composition of consideration sets. ^