3 Scientific Tips to Giving Better Gifts

We’ve all been there. You’re invited to a holiday soiree and need to pick up a last-minute gift. Or perhaps someone has given you a gift, and you need to reciprocate the gesture. It is a moment of overwhelming panic — what to get? Luckily, you have science on your side. Here are 3 tips for getting a great gift for those last minute holiday swaps.

Keep it simple. A lot of people have the misconception that a more expensive gift will be appreciated more, but studies show otherwise. According to a 2009 study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, while givers thought a more expensive gift would be seen as more thoughtful, cost had no effect on a receiver’s actual appreciation of the gift. Rather than going for something expensive and ordinary, think about inside jokes you may have with this person, and base a gift around that. Unless they’ve asked for it, an expensive generic gift won’t beat out a $1 toy from a gum ball machine if there is meaning behind it. Instead of worrying about money, think about the person.

Don’t get too fancy with the wrapping. This might be counterintuitive, but a beautifully wrapped gift with bows, color-theming, and tinsel is not the best way to go. If you making your wrapping too superb, you run the risk of overshadowing the actual gift. According to research, beautiful wrapping raises the expectation of a gift. If the receiver doesn’t like the gift, it becomes even more of a let-down after experiencing the excitement of a beautifully wrapped package. In contrast, a gift swaddled in simple brown paper and twine gives no high expectations, making the actual gift even more of a surprise. While no one is encouraging you to stop wrapping your gifts, going overboard on the wrapping aesthetics can actually work against you.

Listen to what they want. This may sound self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised. Many of us avoid giving our loved ones the gifts they say they want. Instead, we rack our brains to try to surprise them with something completely unexpected and thoughtful. But, when it comes down to it, people are happiest when they get exactly what they want. It may seem too easy to the gifter, but it doesn’t always have to be so black and white. Your loved one may have mentioned that they want that new food processor, or maybe a friend has mentioned that they miss those homemade pies from their hometown. In either scenario, they have told you what will make them happy. All you have to do is make it happen. Just be sure to listen to the desires of your loved ones. In fact, going against what your loved one says they want gives you the gratification of giving a surprise. But, the receiver ends up with a gift they didn’t actually want, as thoughtful as the actual gift may be.

So what’s the secret? Be thoughtful, but not too thoughtful. Take 10 minutes to think about each of your gift ideas. Ask yourself: Is this something the person wants, or is it something I want to give them? Forget about lavish wrapping and expensive luxury items. Listen to what a person likes and desires, and they’re sure to enjoy their gift. Happy gifting!

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers10 months ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ahmed R.
Past Member 1 years ago

Very good advice!

s Gardner
sandy Gardner1 years ago


Veronica Danie
.2 years ago


Catrin NoForwardsPlease
Catrin Schuetz2 years ago

How about the gift of time?

Igor P.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thank you!

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Peggy Binnion
Peggy B2 years ago

Money gifts are usually very welcome for some, either in a card or with an inexpensive gift .

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!