Psychologists have studied what makes a good Christmas gift

If you still have to buy a last-minute Christmas gift or two, good news: researchers have studied what makes a good present. And maybe we shouldn’t judge those people who gave us a bread bin or a gadget from the pound shop too harshly: psychologists have so much to say on the topic they’ve just announced a two-day symposium, The Psychology of Gift Giving and Receiving, set for 26-28 February 2015.

As Psych Central reports, among the presentations will be one from Andong Cheng, Meg Meloy and Evan Polman, who surveyed 7466 Black Friday shoppers and found that 39% of Christmas presents were for ‘picky’ recipients. Ironically, the researchers discovered that if we see another person as hard to buy for, we’re less likely to make an effort, plumping for a gift card or often giving up altogether. But if you are picky and ask for what you want, you’re more likely to get it than easy-going types who trust their loved ones to know what they’ll like. (Suckers.)

While a gift card may not seem like an exciting present, psychologists Chelsea Helion and Thomas Gilovich found that people are more likely to spend it on luxuries than if they’re given cash and encouraged to buy something nice. However, Mary Steffel, Elanor Williams and Robyn LeBoeuf found that cards are more likely to be spent if they can be used in a range of shops, rather than one specific place.

They also discovered that one of the key reasons people are dissatisfied with gifts is that the givers are too rigid in their ideas about who they’ve buying for. Steffel says, ‘Givers tend to focus on what recipients are like rather than what they would like. This can lead them to gravitate toward gifts that are personalized but not very versatile.’ They recommend that if you’re wondering what to get someone, think about what they enjoy doing and how your gift might help them do that. (And no, ‘eating bread’ doesn’t count as a hobby, thanks anyway – maybe try our guide to last-minute gifts instead.)

Of course, Christmas is about more than giving and blah blah commercialism of religious holidays etc. But if you’re going to part with some hard-earned cash, you might as well do your best to ensure it’s appreciated.

Image via Pixabay.

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Diane Shipley