Dec 22, 2016

The Science of Giving the Perfect Gift

Gift Giving During Holiday SeasonIf you are in complete turmoil over holiday gifts, social scientists have observed the way people buy and respond to gifts to provide shoppers with some exceptionally valuable advice. How many times have you agonized over getting the perfect gifts for everyone on your list? In reality, you really don’t need to try so hard!

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s Jeff Galak, the recipients of gifts rarely yearn for a ‘big reveal’ or a ‘wow’ moment when they open their gifts. Affording to Galak and his team, when the gift giver is too focused on the moment of opening the gift, it just might end up being the wrong choice. Most people who are focused on ‘wowing’ the recipient while the recipient will open the gift, thinking about how they can get long term use out of it.

Psychologists have discovered that ‘over-individuating’ gifts, is another cause for giving bad gifts. People often feel obliged to choose unique items for the people on their list although getting the same gift will not make a different. In reality, a great gift item may work for multiple people.

Most people consider regifting to be shameful and that gift-givers would feel offended if they find out if their gifts were passed on to someone else. However, the study revealed that most gift givers are not offended and understand the recipients’ decisions.

Psychologists have also discovered that people are happy to be given items that are listed on in their registry rather than unexpected gifts and in some situations, they are happier to be given cash. The idea is to let your recipient choose the gift and then to buy it for them without going for the surprise effect. If they have not told you what they want, you can, you can always pick a gift certificate that is not too restrictive. According to Mary Steffel, a Northeastern University psychologist, more specific gift cards are actually less likely to be redeemed.

The University of Chicago conducted some interesting experiments to explore if ‘the thought really does count’. Visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry were paired off with one of them taken to a speared room to choose a gift for their partner at the museum’s shop. Some people were told to pick random items while others were told to pick a gift that the recipient would actually like. As for the recipients, they liked the randomly selected gift and the thoughtful one equally. If the gift was satisfying, the thought process behind the selection was irrelevant, especially if the gift giver was not anyone particularly close to the recipient.

However, there was one situation in which the thought did count. The researchers told the recipients to expect a gift of similar quality to a nicely crafted Newton’s Cradle while the givers were only allowed to pick cheap items. Needless to say, the recipients were disappointed. They were less disappointed if the gift was chosen for them by someone close to them as they consoled themselves by the fact that the gift giver focused on getting something that suits them. As for the average gift giver, if you are not sure about being able to buy a great gift for someone, pick something that shows the effort you put in. If not, try and pick a gift that makes you feel good about yourself.

Source: New York Times