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Sun, X.; Niu, G.; Shi, X.; Jin, S.; Yang, W.; Wu, Y. Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 13 April 2024).
Sun X, Niu G, Shi X, Jin S, Yang W, Wu Y. Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 13, 2024.
Sun, Xiaojun, Gengfeng Niu, Xiaohan Shi, Siyu Jin, Wencheng Yang, Yang Wu. "Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 13, 2024).
Sun, X., Niu, G., Shi, X., Jin, S., Yang, W., & Wu, Y. (2023, March 16). Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming. In Encyclopedia.
Sun, Xiaojun, et al. "Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming." Encyclopedia. Web. 16 March, 2023.
Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming

With the development of society, especially information technology, the manners of social interaction and entertainment have profoundly changed. In recent years, live streaming platforms (such as Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook Live in western countries; AfreecaTV in Korea; YY Live, Douyu TV, and Huya Live in China), where anyone can deliver real-time broadcasts or watch and interact with the streamers, have been increasingly popular around the world. The viewing of live video streaming has become one of the most popular online activities; there are 616 million live streaming users in China, representing 62.4 percent of the Chinese Internet population. To some extent, live video streaming has been a new social media, providing users new manners for social interaction and entertainment.

Machiavellianism online gift-giving

1. Introduction

A notable feature of live streaming is that users could interact with the streamer by sending messages and giving paid gifts. Gift-giving is a common feature of most live streaming platforms with specific interpersonal purposes—viewers send gifts to express their encouragement and “like” for the streamer, with the aim of getting special feedback from the streamer (such as streamers’ warm and immediate response), as well as superior social status in the live streaming channel of the streamer [1][2]; in addition, as the gifts are usually purchased with real money from the platforms, gift-giving is also a unique and lucrative business model, from which both streamers and the platforms receive most of their revenues [3][4]. However, too much involvement in giving paid gifts would cause negative social influences on both viewers (e.g., compulsive or irrational tipping could cause economic burden or boast negative beliefs) and the healthy development of the live streaming industry (e.g., negative social reputation and strict industry control). Therefore, it is of vital importance to examine the factors associated with gift-giving in live video streaming, since such findings may have implications for preventing compulsive tipping and fostering the sustainable development of the live video streaming industry.
However, previous studies mainly focused on the factors underlying viewing live video streaming [5]. A number of relevant studies have suggested that the social interaction perspective may offer an integrated view of gift-giving both in real life and online [3][5][6], and Machiavellianism was found to be a significant personality trait directly related to social interaction and motivations in both real life and online space.

2. Machiavellianism and Gift-Giving in Live Video Streaming

The attempts to examine the influencing factors of gift-giving in live video streaming are limited. Previous studies mainly focused on the social motivational factors of gift-giving in real life, defining gift-giving as a process that serves communication, social exchange, economic exchange, and socialization functions [4][7]. It has been well established that gift-giving is a common strategy in social interaction. Yang and Urminsky demonstrated that gifting is associated with a desire for recipients’ positive reactions and feedback [6]. Various relevant empirical studies have shown that people often give gifts in order to gain social status or personal attention in the real and the virtual world [8][9]. As in live video streaming, viewers could realize their desire for social interaction through economic input or expenditure on streamers. Therefore, the social interaction perspective may be a new perspective for understanding gift-giving in live video streaming.
Individuals’ social interactions may be greatly influenced by their personal traits, insofar as people with different personal traits may have different motivations and tendencies in daily social interaction and relationships [10]. As one of the three socially aversive or most concerning personality traits, Machiavellianism is characterized by emotional detachment, low empathy, and the tendencies to manipulate or exploit others, which has an important impact on social interaction and relationships in both real life and online space [11][12][13]. Machiavellianism impels individuals to engage in negative behaviors such as bullying, deception, and relational aggression [14], with the aim of increasing social status, limiting the power of others, or dominating the social relationship or interaction [15]. At the same time, they engage in behaviors that benefit themselves at the expense of others, as well as those that give the appearance of success when in fact this is not the case [16].
The process of gift-giving could be seen as a special social interaction between viewers and streamers in live video streaming. When viewers send gifts, the information about the viewer and gifts will be presented in the information bar which all viewers could see, and the streamers will also express their gratitude to the gift-givers in public; afterward, the streamers would also respond warmly to the gift-givers, for example, by answering their questions immediately or conducting specific behaviors (e.g., singing a song or telling a joke) at their request. Thus, it is assumed that this process could satisfy the need to seek social status, and individuals would tend to engage in more gift-giving activities. Relevant studies also revealed that the motivations for social status, social competition, social recognition, and the special attention from streamers were closely associated with gift-giving in live video streaming [2][3][4]. Taking into account the core features of Machiavellianism and relevant findings, it was hypothesized that Machiavellianism would be positively associated with gift-giving in live video streaming (which was assessed through self-reported frequency).

3. The Mediating Role of Desire for Control

The desire for control refers to the extent to which individuals are motivated to control their environment or exercise dominance over interpersonal situations [17]. The desire for control is a common motivation in daily life, which influences people’s interactions with others. Individuals with a high level of desire for control usually tend to be assertive, decisive, and active. Consequently, they would not only seek to influence others (especially when doing so is advantageous), but also to restrict their interaction partners as well as to use several control-maintaining strategies [18][19]. At the same time, the desire for control was closely associated with the need for social competence [18].
To some extent, live video streaming provides a perfect platform for viewers to satisfy the psychological needs motivated by the desire for control by easily sending gifts. First, to attract more viewers and get more paid-gifts, streamers would adopt various strategies (e.g., giving warm feedback and behaving as required) to make the viewers feel comfortable, influential, and dominant, which could satisfy the psychological needs driven by the desire for control [1][5]. Then, the gift-giving in live video streaming is motivated by several determinants, such as seeking social status and competition, and intentional or unintentional interpersonal manipulation of the streamer (e.g., social recognition, special attention, and appreciation from the streamer) [2][3][4]. Thus, the desire for control would motivate individuals to engage in gift-giving behaviors. Thus, it is hypothesized that the desire for control is positively associated with gift-giving in live video streaming.
In addition, research also indicated that the desire for control was closely associated with Machiavellianism. On the one hand, manipulating or exploiting others in social interaction is a defining element of Machiavellianism [11][12]. Particularly, individuals with a high level of Machiavellianism always attempt to control others by being domineering in multiple social settings [15][16]. On the other hand, individuals with a high level of Machiavellianism tend to control interpersonal interactions and the social environment, aiming to pursue and maintain social power and influence [13][20]. Relevant empirical studies also supported this point and found that Machiavellianism was positively associated with emotional manipulation, supervision, and surveillance (the indicators of desire for control) [11][20][21]. At the same time, the trait activation theory argues that people are attentive to situations and things that activate psychological processes that underlie their personalities [22]. In particular, the trait activation process occurs when the situation or thing is relevant to a person’s values, goals, and the way he or she wants to present himself or herself. As previously discussed, gift-giving in live video streaming fits well into the psychological motivations of Machiavellianism and the desire for control to some extent, and relevant empirical studies also found that subordinate perceptions of authoritarian leadership behavior (a typical manifestation of the desire for control in the workplace) fully mediated the relationship between Machiavellianism and abusive supervision [20]. According to the relevant empirical findings and the main points of the trait activation theory, it was hypothesized that the desire for control would mediate the association between Machiavellianism and gift-giving in live video streaming.

4. The Moderating Role of Materialism

Materialism is defined as the importance attached to the possessions and the acquisition of material goods in achieving major life goals or desired states [23][24]. It is an important value influencing the way people interpret their environment and construct people’s lives and positions in society [25][26]. Materialism reflects not only the natural attributes of wealth, such as the exchangeability of money, but also the social attributes of wealth, such as social symbolism and compensation of material possessions. For example, individuals with a high level of materialism are more likely to purchase goods excessively and compulsively [27][28]. In particular, individuals with a high level of materialism tend to utilize money or wealth to manage or control social relationships (e.g., compensation for social exclusion and poor/insecure relationships, or pursuit of power) [29][30]. At the same time, materialists may also be prone to pursuing or enhancing social status or power through money or material products [26][31][32].
As discussed above, the nature of paid gift-giving in live video streaming is an exchange for social relationships, attention, power, and status with money, which fits well into the mindset of materialism [29]. Thus, individuals with a high level of materialism may be more likely to engage in gift-giving to satisfy the desire for control induced by Machiavellianism in social interaction. Relevant studies also tested the moderating role of materialism and found that materialism could moderate the relationship between discretionary activities and happiness [33], as well as the effect of accounting for time on prosocial behaviors [34]. On this basis, it was hypothesized that the mediating effect of desire for control in the association between Machiavellianism and gift-giving would be moderated by materialism, and this mediating effect would be stronger among individuals with a high level of materialism.


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