You Can Use Science To Give Less-Bad Gifts. Here’s How

It happens every holiday season. You get a pair of designer socks, a lovingly knitted woolen jumper that is past it’s ‘in vogue’ date (late 1950s) and a year-long subscription to Gravy Aficionado magazine, just because you once told Aunt Emma that you’d enjoyed the leftovers she’d reheated for you.

And this phenomenon is not limited to the gifts you receive, of course. In fact, some of the gifts you’ve so thoughtfully shipped out, this year even, will meet the same fate. But why? It seems science has once again triumphed, and can answer these important and puzzling questions in light of new research.

The Simple Difference In Mindsets


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Researchers at the Yale School of Management in their examination of the choices made by gift givers have concluded that there is a fundamental dichotomy between what givers see as worthwhile gifts and what receivers in fact want. The dichotomy lies in what givers perceive as attractive traits in the gift they have so thoughtfully picked out – and the traits that receivers want their gifts to possess, namely simplicity and usability.

It is this misunderstanding that leads us to choose among apps and software (one of the most common categories of gifts in the holiday season) programs that have all the bells and whistles and multiple functionalities, over simple and cheaper alternatives that are easier to use, even though the recipient wished to a simple and functional application where they wouldn’t have to struggle with a learning curve.

Gestures As Gifts


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The same body of research that indicates that givers are more likely to go with a heavier and more feature laden pen, while receivers want an uncomplicated and easy to carry writing instrument also found that good gifts needn’t be material objects, but that a phone call, letter or even an unexpected visit are also gifts, and when used right can really mend wounded relationships.

Convenience Of A Gift


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All of the research points to the fact that receivers want a gift that is more practical than anything else. The solution here is simple – instead of focusing on the desirability of the gift too much, it is better to think of how useful the gift may be to the receiver by putting yourself in their shoes so to speak.

Here also, it goes without saying that if you’re particularly into jazz fusion concerts, and the intended recipient prefers popular music, it would be prudent to not only give them tickets to the latest pop sensation’s gig, but also understand that even though you would like for them to get into jazz fusion, the (much more expensive) tickets and exclusive jazz tickets aren’t going to be appreciated by them, or even used.

The Thought That Counts?


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The same group of researchers at Yale found that while having the thought put into the gift counts, but not when it’s fanciful like in the jazz concert scenario. Like when in O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, the couple gets rid of their most prized possessions in order to afford a gift for the other, only to find out that the gift they chose for each other was chosen to accentuate and complement each other’s (now gone) prized possessions – the resulting presents were entirely useless, but the gesture wasn’t.

Ultimately, it is the gift of time and thought that you are giving anyone else, and when they notice your sincere efforts into (picking what you think is) the right gift, or they note the sacrifice you had to make to secure them something that you thought they desired, they will appreciate the gesture if not the gift in itself. And that counts for a lot.

Money And Gifts


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There are two angles to explore here, and both are somewhat surprising and fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

It would be during the holidays that a thoughtful gift most counts, right? Wrong. The fact is that money is an excellent gift to receive even in the holiday season, although we often think otherwise. The second thing to note is that when it comes to money is the fact that money can’t buy love. In the sense that when it comes to even big-ticket items like wedding rings, research indicates that the price of the ring plays no part in how happy the recipients were in getting it, or what they made of them. Again, here, it is the thought – genuine, and not fanciful – that counts, and not merely the price.

Three Simple Checks


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To conclude, selecting the perfect gifts, as proven by science, involves three checks: simplicity, usefulness and practicality (to the recipient), and the amount of genuine thought and time that has gone into procuring them. Not the amount of money you spent on them, or how much you want them to like and use The Expert Guide to Knitting you’ve chosen.