Most people enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but the psychology of gift-giving goes far beyond those simple feelings. In our previous article on the Art of Giving Gifts, we shared some known science behind giving the perfect gift.
Now, the Wall Street Journal also collected advice from psychologists and other researchers who study gift-giving to discover five ways to give better gifts.
1. Give a piece of you: Think of them, but think of yourself, too
Getting a culinary gift for your pal? Maybe it can tie in to your own favorite restaurants, even though your friend may not typically eat there. Considering something crafty, why not get something hand-made with LEGO since you are a LEGO fan? Want your friend to join you in the joy of buying from Amazon.com, buy her a gift of Amazon Prime? A pattern that reflects your style could be the best fit.
That’s because, according to a paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a gift that incorporates your tastes is ideal.
“Both givers and receivers report greater feelings of closeness to their gift partner when the gift reflects the giver,” the study concluded.
2. If you go big, don’t add a small touch: When more is not better
Is giving more really better when it comes to gifts? Do you give someone a big, expensive gift and add on a small extra (say a cute pen) for fun? It turns out that adding a sweet stocking stuffer as an extra to a premium present actually takes away the overall appreciation of your big gesture.
Kimberlee Weaver, an associate professor of marketing at Virginia Tech said that, without thinking about it, recipients “average the values of the individual components when forming an impression of the bundle overall.”
So maybe skip the key ring when you give the car.
3. Give guys a gift with a connection
In a romantic relationship with a man? Be careful what you give him.
A 2008 paper called “The Gift of Similarity: How Good and Bad Gifts Influence Relationships” points out that while woman don’t mind getting a dud gift from a guy, it doesn’t work the opposite way. A gift that didn’t “hit the mark” makes men feel less similar to the giver.
So Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia said that it’s best to choose a gift that builds on that area of similarity or to a common bond.
“If you don’t share much but skiing, go for the skiing-related gift,” she said.
4. Doing good for someone may not a good gift
A thoughtful charitable contribution is definitely appreciated by the charity, but not necessarily the person whose name it’s given in.
A paper in the journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes looked at how people felt about charity gifts, and while many liked giving them, most folks preferred getting anything else.
Study co-author Lisa Cavanaugh told the paper even “really mundane tangible gifts” ranked better than donations.
5. But whatever you do, do give
The real gift you give during the holiday season is the one you give yourself — just by giving.
Multiple studies, whether looking at children or adults, prove that’s where the real joy lies.
People “are happier spending money on others than themselves,” Lara Aknin, a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University said.
Check out the full story at the Wall Street Journal to learn even more about the science of giving.