Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Joshua Newton, Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University

Christmas trees in the aisles. Baubles hanging from the ceiling. Carols playing on the in-store speakers. Tinsel around the cash register.

Shops put a lot of effort into Christmas decorations. It’s in their interest to associate themselves with the celebration, and to encourage shoppers to think spending up big is part and parcel of its enjoyment.

Is this overt commercialisation of Christmas drowning out its true spirit?

Read more: Five tricks retailers will use to make you shop this Christmas

Not necessarily, according to research by myself, Jimmy Wong from the Singapore University of Social Sciences and Riza Casidy from Deakin University.

We have found that seeing Christmas symbols – even a secular one – can evoke religious values in service contexts. Customers who had a Christian upbringing become more forgiving of poor service they personally receive but also more judgemental of any poor service they observe being meted out to vulnerable others.

The religious spirit of Christmas

Our research adds to a small but growing body of research on how Christmas affects attitudes and behaviour. Previous research has suggested that mere exposure to the word “Christmas” can evoke charitable behaviour, that Christmas displays improve the mood of those who celebrate Christmas, and that displaying outdoor Christmas decorations can make a household appear more welcoming.

Our results reinforce these findings. They show the strength of Christmas’s religious roots despite commercial and secular interest in de-emphasising the connection to Christianity.

For people brought up in a household where Christmas was primarily a religious celebration, encountering a Christmas symbol reminds them of religious meanings and values.

This effect did not depend on them still being a Christian. This shows the associations that children in Christian households develop between Christmas and religion remain potent long after childhood.

Yes, retailers exploit Christmas, but their decorations still evoke religious spirit Christmas time at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

A double-edged sword

Across seven experiments, we presented more than 1,500 participants with scenarios describing various types of poor service.

Some scenarios described poor service that was personally experienced. Others described poor service directed towards someone else.

Accompanying these scenarios were various Christmas symbols. In one experiment, we had participants listen to Christmas carols or nursery rhymes. In other experiments, participants were shown images of where the poor service took place. Included in the background of some of these images was a Christmas tree.

We found that the mere presence of these Christmas symbols was enough for people with a Christian upbringing to judge the poor service less harshly, become less likely to warn others about it, and be less likely to switch to another business.

In our research, people with a Christian upbringing also became more concerned about the welfare of others after seeing a Christmas symbol. In particular, they more critically judged poor service involving someone they regarded as vulnerable (an older person, for example). They were also more likely to warn others about that poor service and to switch to another business.

Thus Christmas symbols represent a double-edged sword for retailers.

Yes, retailers exploit Christmas, but their decorations still evoke religious spirit Christmas decorations for sale in a shop in Baghdad. Christians form about 5% of the population in Iraq. Ali Abbas/EPA

Other religious symbols

Christmas symbols are but one type of religious symbol. Would similar effects occur for other religions if matching religious symbols were observed? Our findings suggest they would.

In another of our experiments, we asked participants to unscramble sentences containing generic religious phrases or non-religious phrases.

Irrespective of their religious background, participants who unscrambled the generic religious phrases were less harsh in how they judged poor service than those who unscrambled the non-religious phrases.

Read more: The psychology of Christmas shopping: how marketers nudge you to buy

These findings point to some interesting conclusions.

Although stores may try to co-opt Christmas symbolism for commercial gain, it seems these symbols can not be completely disconnected from associations established by Christianity.

Sometimes, such as the negative responses that occur after seeing a vulnerable person experiencing poor service, they can lead to outcomes where the true spirit of Christmas really does undercut a firm’s self-interest.

Authors: Joshua Newton, Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/yes-retailers-exploit-christmas-but-their-decorations-still-evoke-religious-spirit-108334

High Court ruling on 'Palace letters' case paves way to learn more about The Dismissal - and our Constitution

arrow_forward

Really Australia, it's not that hard: 10 reasons why renewable energy is the future

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

$1.8 billion boost for local government

The Federal Liberal and Nationals Government will deliver a $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through local governments across Australia.   The package of support will help lo...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison press conference

PRIME MINISTER: This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost, every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their commun...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

BOOST FOR BUSHFIRE RECOVERY

Local economic recovery plans will help towns and regions hit by bushfires get back on their feet as part of a new $650 million package of support from the Morrison Government.   As part of th...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

How to effortlessly promote your business

You've worked hard to build your business from the ground up, and as any successful entrepreneur will tell you brand promotion is everything. Not only do high-quality promotions build a sense of...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hotdesking might not be ‘dead’ after all

According to Christian Pistauer, Workplace Strategy director of Meta5 Group in Australia, COVID will dramatically change the commercial real estate sector in Australia for many years to come. ”...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

Office expert: Don't bring your staff back to work until you have done these things

With lockdown restrictions gradually being eased across the country, Australian workplaces are looking at the types of changes needed in order to meet new health and wellness requirements post-l...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion