What Type of Present is Best?
Gift giving is a part of big celebrations, events, and holidays.
It’s also a common way to show appreciation and love for those around you. Whether they are a great boss, a kind neighbor, supportive family, or a significant other.
However, hunting for the gifts is tough. It’s especially taxing around big holiday seasons like Christmas.
How do you get something that’s fitting? The gift that shows how much you care. That they’ll use and not just throw away. Most of all, how do you find something they’ll actually like, and not just say they do?
Science can’t help you navigate the holiday circus or check to see which local stores have that perfect gift in stock.
But it can help you answer what types of gifts bring happiness.
We give preference to thoughtful gifts over ones that are just material. However, a new study shows that we shouldn’t discount the happiness that these types of presents can bring.
The researchers break down presents into two categories.
The first are more materialistic and physical. Presents like like toys, iPads, clothes, or jewelry.
The second type of gift provides experiences. Things like concerts, tickets to a sporting event, eating at a restaurant that just opened, or a trip somewhere new.
Each of these provide a different kind of happiness, according to the scientists.
To compare the two types, the researchers used real time data over the course of 6 weeks around a big holiday. Christmas.
81 participants were split into two groups and instructed to focus on either a material gift or an experiential one. Starting on Christmas day, the participants were sent text messages every day for two weeks following gift opening day.
They found that material presents provided smaller but more frequent doses of happiness. The experiential gifts produced fewer moments of joy, but were far more intense.
Researchers followed up with the participants a month later to see how happiness levels compared. When they tallied the data, they found that those that had received experiences were overall more satisfied.
So while a lot of literature on happiness downplays material things, as gifts they can deliver similar if not equal amounts of happiness.
In the end though, it seems like an experience will leave people with a longer lasting feeling of contentment.
Spirit of Giving
The study didn’t look at how younger children might experience the different gifts. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if results would be different.
The way young children experience life, and their perception of gifts, are different from an adult. Their world is more structured and can center around things they can see and feel.
But when it comes to adults, it may depend on the type of person you’re dealing with. Aaron Weidman from the study leaves us with this piece of advice:
“The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires.”
Or you can be a superstar and deliver them what they really deserve. Give them a gift of each type to deliver both types of happiness.