Don’t Make Smart Gifts, Give Your Friends What They Really Want

Thoughtful gifts are the best gifts, right? Not so fast. Choosing a “thoughtful” gift can be more selfish than letting the recipient of the gift choose the gift for themselves.

Researchers at Southern Ward Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin conducted a series of experiments with 90 college students. Half were placed on a gift recipient group and asked to select a lamp to be included in their gift register. The other half, the donors, were asked to select a lamp for recipients from five options, with one lamp being marked as the one in the person’s registry.

The results are impressive. Only 23 percent of donors chose a different lamp for another person if they were not close friends. However, if the giver and recipients were friends? An incredible 61 percent of donors ignored the registry’s choice and opted for a different lamp.

Although this is a small sample, research points to a bias we experience when choosing gifts for our friends. Giving a gift is an opportunity to share your personal interests with the recipient or demonstrate how well you know him. Whether consciously or not, we take into account our own need to choose a “meaningful” gift and our relationship with this person, not what he really might want (even if it is indicated in the gift register!). The Washington Post explains:

The discrepancy seems to stem from a simple misplaced belief that thoughtful gifts are the best gifts. They are not. In fact, these can be the worst gifts. The more thoughts you put into a gift, the more likely you are to give up buying something for which the person you are buying the gift for really wants.

“Donors tend to focus on who people are , rather than what they really want, ” Steffel said. “And this is especially noticeable when they shop for loved ones.”

In other words, people allow their gift-giving ego to get in the way of great gifts. Especially when the recipient is someone they want to show that they really know them well.

If there is a registry, stick to it. Otherwise, you might be better off asking a friend what they want, or presenting a gift card that suggests something he or she might like. It might sound frivolous and lazy, but your friend might like it better. If you accept gifts, you can help your friends by making a wish list.

Ask and You Will (Not) Get: Close Friends Put Relational Signaling Over Recipient Preference When Choosing Gifts | Social Science Research Network via The Washington Post

Why Smart Gifts Are the Worst Gifts | Washington Post


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