Five Ways to Give Better Gifts (Backed by Science)

Posted on December 3, 2015

Photo source: Flickr

Here are some of the findings from psychologists and other researchers who study gift-giving that you may want to take into account this holiday season.

1. Give a piece of you
In one study of 122 university students, psychologists instructed some givers to give an iTunes song that reflects “your true self”, and others to give one that reflects “your knowledge of the recipient.”
“Surprisingly,” concluded the authors of the paper, “both givers and receivers report greater feelings of closeness to their gift partner when the gift reflects the giver.”

2. When less is more
How often do you give someone a big, generous gift and add on a small extra (say a cute pen or $5 Starbucks card) for fun? It turns out the little stocking stuffer is actually detracting from appreciation of the gift overall.
In a series of seven experiments, researchers discovered that recipients subconsciously “average the values of the individual components when forming an impression of the bundle overall,” says Kimberlee Weaver, associate professor of marketing at Virginia Tech. So they value your present less if you bundle something big with several little things.

3. Be careful when giving to men
A bad gift makes men feel less similar to you, according to a paper in the journal Social Cognition.
When choosing presents for men, Dr. Dunn advises that you think about how you’re similar and choose a gift that builds on that area of similarity. “If you don’t share much but skiing, go for the skiing-related gift,” she says.

4. Doing good, but not a good gift
Givers overestimate how much recipients will appreciate a charitable donation in their name, according to one study.
“Recipients think it says more about you than about your commitment to them. One spouse actually said, ‘It showed me he cared about the world but he didn’t care about me,’ ” says one of the authors, Dr. Cavanaugh.

5. Above all, give
Toddlers exhibited greater happiness when giving treats to others than receiving them, according to an analysis of the facial expressions of 20 toddlers in a 2012 study. People “are happier spending money on others than themselves,” the researchers said.

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Category(s):Happiness

Source material from The Wall Street Journal


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