Last updated January 22, 2018 at 9:14 am
You’ve spent months agonising over the perfect gift.
And now, the moment of truth is here and all eyes are on the receiver.
Buying gifts at Christmas needn’t be a gamble. There are some tried and science-tested approaches to ensure that you don’t have to locate the receipt on boxing day.
Experiences vs. things
Scientists from the University of Toronto have found that giving an experience rather than a material item builds a stronger relationship between the receiver and the giver.
It all comes down to eliciting the right emotional response.
Research leader Cindy Chan said, “An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it – like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa – and is more intensely emotional than a material possession.”
Chan and co-workers took 59 pairs of friends and split each pair into gift-giver and gift-receiver. The gift givers were asked to find either an experiential gift or material gift for their lucky friend.
Once the pairs had exchanged the gift the participants were sent an online survey to measure the strength of the relationship after receiving an experience or material item.
There was a clear winner.
Recipients of the experiential gift reported greater strengthening of their relationship with their gift-giver than recipients of the material gift.
Give a little bit of yourself
When choosing a gift, you may think that focusing on the recipient may be the best way to improve your chances of picking the perfect gift.
Time to think again.
Researchers from the US have found that givers and receivers report a greater feeling of closeness to their gift partner when the gift reflects the giver.
US scientists performed six studies that explored both the perceptions and relational outcomes of gifts that reflect the giver (giver-centric gifts) and gifts that reflect the recipient (recipient-centric gifts).
It appears that there is a better chance of getting it right by giving a gift that reflects your own personality or likes, rather than buying something you think the receiver will like.
Giving your favourite book, a special item or something you’ve appreciated in the past may create a much better impact on the receiver.
The last resort
If you are really stuck for an idea for the perfect gift, there’s some evidence to suggest that simply asking the receiver what they’d like can work in your favour.
Although it feels like a massive cop-out, it isn’t.
The research showed that although gift-givers assume people will like requested and unrequested gifts equally the gift-receivers have a clear preference for gifts they’ve asked for.
Does the Christmas shopping get any simpler than that?