What’s the Perfect Gift? Research Finds It’s the One They Asked For
During the holidays and special events you might find yourself looking for the perfect gift.
If you really care about someone, then you should pick out a gift that is thoughtful and tailored to their specific interests and personality. Right?
New research says that while this feels like the right thing to do, it isn’t the way to go. Instead, we should focus on that person’s wish list.
Get Them What They Want
Our first instinct might be to get them something special and unique. But a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology says that you’d be better off sticking to their list.
Researchers from Stanford and Harvard ran a series of give different experiments showing that people would rather receive a gift from a list they had made, as opposed to something they hadn’t asked for.
This goes against what many of us would believe. If we put a lot of thought and work into picking out something special, we would think they would appreciate it more. But the authors state:
Gift givers would be wise to pay attention to gift registries, wish lists, and explicit requests from friends and significant others.
3 Highlights From the Study
The research conducted separate experiments to test how gift givers and gift recipients thought and felt about particular types of gifts.
Here is a quick rundown of what they found:
1. Recipients were more appreciative of getting gifts they requested than of gifts that were unsolicited.
2. Gift givers believed a special gift that wasn’t on the list would be more appreciated by the reciever. However, recipients felt the complete opposite. It was gifts received from their list that were seen to be more thoughtful and considerate.
3. One of the experiments showed that gift recipients actually showed more appreciation for money than any item they had on their list. Gift givers believed, however, that cash would be considered the least appreciated item when compared to other possible gifts.
The Source of the Confusion
So there’s two completely different thought patterns when it comes to giving or receiving gifts.
What’s the deal?
As gift givers, we often assume that putting extra thought and work into finding a gift would be appreciated. But that’s not how recipients actually see it.
The experts believe that when you ignore a direct request, in the eye of the receiver you are ignoring what they really want. They didn’t pick items at random, they’ve given you direct input about what they really, truly wanted. Thus, sticking to what they ask for will actually garner stronger appreciation.
Frank Flynn, who was involved in the study, says:
The strange thing is that this breakdown between givers and receivers happens all the time, even though most people have been both givers and receivers often in the past, and therefore they should have some understanding of the other party’s perspective.
Advice for Gift Recipients
The authors also believe there’s a lesson for those asking for gifts:
Conversely gift recipients can facilitate the gift-giving process by not only being more direct about making suggestions for gifts, but being more specific as well.
Rather than putting together one big ‘wish list’, they should instead list one big wish.
If you’re picking out gifts for someone you really care about, picking a gift off a list can seem a bit impersonal. We want to show them how much we care.
But our good intentions for a big surprise may backfire. And while going with a list may seem too mechanical, resist that urge to go off script. The reality is they’ll appreciate you more for getting something that they’ve already put thought into.
On the bright side, they’ve kind of done you a favor. Very few of us enjoy scrambling store to store in search of a great gift.