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How to give a good gift: a scientist gives advice on how to avoid common pitfalls

Yulia PoteriankoLife
It is a scientifically proven fact that we overestimate the importance of gift wrapping

We all both love and hate the gift-giving season during the winter holidays. We love it for the chance to get something we've been dreaming of for a long time, and we hate it for the need to find something good for all our family and friends, which can be problematic. It is so difficult to guess what exactly can make a person happy. As a result, in the United States alone, up to 20% of gift items are returned to stores, and about 2.6 million tons of different things end up in landfills.

Julian Givi, a marketer and psychologist at West Virginia University in Morgantown, is studying these issues to find out why we miscalculate and how to avoid giving away junk. According to Science News, he published the results of his many years of work in the journal Consumer Psychology.

When he began his research, he assumed that gift givers were motivated by a simple desire to please the recipients of gifts. But it turned out that this was not the case. It turned out that people often choose something that satisfies their own desires, not those of the recipient. In doing so, they strive for uniqueness, social approval, or just joking. So, according to Givi, to be more successful in giving, it would be nice to get your own ego out of the way.

Mistakes of choice

According to Givi, we start making mistakes at the stage of choosing and wrapping gifts. For example, we often think that giving a second-hand item is a bad idea. But if it's a dream gift, it will really make a person's life better, and the item is in good condition, the recipient will still be happy with it.

Besides, we tend to overestimate the role of gift wrapping. Let's say you have $50 for a gift. You can spend $40 on the item itself and $10 on beautiful packaging. But you can save on packaging and spend all the money on a better item. And the recipient would be much happier if there was $10 in the box, rather than seeing brightly colored wrapping paper of the same value that will be immediately thrown in the trash. But according to generally accepted norms, a gift should be beautifully wrapped and presented.

We also often think that giving a part of a big gift is also bad. Let's say you're going to a wedding and the newlyweds have ordered eight plates for $25 each. But you only have $100 and can only buy half of what they ordered. As gift givers, we don't like to give unfinished gifts. But recipients are usually happy about it.

Experiences are better than things

Several studies have already shown that an experience can be a much better gift than an object. We often focus on giving a person a thing, and then it sits at home and does not bring any benefit. Whereas impressions make people happier than material gifts. In addition, experience-related gifts bring the giver and the receiver closer. That's why a certificate for some kind of entertainment will be a better choice and leave more memories than a similarly priced T-shirt.

Don't overestimate the importance of a surprise

When choosing a gift, we focus most of all on the moment when the bow is removed from the box and we see emotions. While the recipient of the gift pays more attention to the long-term usefulness. Studies show that people are mistaken about how important the element of surprise is. Yes, the recipient may not be as excited about something they really need, but such a thing will bring them more positive emotions in the long run.

Givi mentioned a chocolate fondue fountain and a coffee maker as examples of gifts. The fountain is more unique and beautiful, but how often will it be taken out of the closet to use it during the year? A coffee maker is a less original gift. But it will work every morning and bring pleasure to a person every time.

"Out-of-season" gifts bring more happiness

One of the unexpected findings that Givi made during his research is that cheaper gifts given outside of the traditional gift-giving season, like the Christmas holidays, bring as much joy as expensive items in season. For example, if you spend $10 on a random Tuesday in March, it will bring a person as much happiness as a $50 item given for Christmas. So if you want to make the recipient really happy, give nice little things for no reason.

And, of course, the researcher pointed out that an important component of a successful gift is its compliance with the recipient's wishes. It is better to find out in advance what a person needs and what will improve their life. Perhaps he or she is really against second-hand things as a gift, or prefers to receive something material instead of impressions. In this case, it's better to focus on their personal tastes rather than on the results of research. After all, there are exceptions to every rule.

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