giftsHere’s something to keep in mind next holiday season when you get ready to wrap gifts. If you have any doubts about whether your spouse will appreciate the workout gear, your daughters-in-law will love the bathroom rugs, or your adult son will value the hand-crocheted vest you made for his hunting dog, then you should not wrap your gifts in beautiful paper and ribbons. Perhaps, you shouldn’t wrap them at all!

Researchers from Yale and the University of Miami recently reviewed the work of economists and psychologists who have explored what produces lasting happiness and its implications for gift giving. They also conducted some field trials. The findings were unexpected, as The Economist explains:

“Americans spend $3.2bn a year on wrapping paper. Yet their work not only fails to enhance joy, it creates unrealistic expectations that lead to discontent. Gift wrappers may think they are transforming the mundane into the magnificent; recipients seem to experience the process in reverse, with disappointment the result.”

It brings to mind that old saying about putting lipstick on a pig.

Of course, few people select an undesirable gift on purpose. The good news is that researchers can offer some insight into gift giving, too. In general, there are two gifting strategies: recipient-focused and giver-focused. If you rely on the former, you choose gifts based on what the person you’re buying for likes. If you prefer the latter, you give things you like.

It may seem counterintuitive but studies show that, “You and the recipient will likely feel closer to one another if you buy them a gift that says something about you, not them.”

Now, for the bad news: It’s not a definitive solution. Researchers caution that giving a gift you like “could signal self-obsession or narcissism.”

If you find the challenges of gift giving to be too much, consider giving a nice IRA or a college fund.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”
–Buddy, Main character in the movie Elf

Sources:

https://som.yale.edu/faculty-research/our-centers-initiatives/center-customer-insights/insights-review/perils-wrapping-paper-unwrapping-consumer-expectations
https://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21732922-new-research-reveals-simmering-misunderstanding-under-tree-psychology-presents (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/12-26-17_TheEconomist-New_Research_Reveals_Simmering_Misunderstanding_Under_the_Tree-Footnote_5.pdf)
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103115000372
https://digest.bps.org.uk/2015/07/31/what-weve-been-getting-wrong-about-choosing-gifts/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319343/quotes