The Science of Gift Gifting

It’s the season to start a shopping list of gifts for your family and friends. You’ll start figuring out who to give gifts to and more importantly, what to get them and how much to spend on it.

In Singapore, people are likely to spend $100 or more on each gift for parents, grandparents and significant others, while only spending $50 - $99 on siblings and children, $20 - $39 on close friends and relatives and only $10 - $19 on colleagues and bosses. And although giving gifts can make you feel happy, communicate your feelings toward the receiver and even strengthen relationships, a less-than-stellar gift can have the opposite effect.

Research done by Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, has also shown that undesirable gifts can sometimes negatively impact the receiver’s perception of a relationship’s future potential.

Since you don’t want your holiday gift to cause more harm than good, how can you be sure to choose a gift the receiver will love? Here are some key things that Science can tell you.

1. Price doesn’t matter

Research has actually shown that spending more does not always guarantee a well-received gift. One study found that the more expensive a gift, the more givers expected recipients to appreciate it. But while givers thought spending more conveyed more thoughtfulness, receivers didn’t associate the price with their level of appreciation.

2. Think long term

Jeff Galak, an associate professor of marketing at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in the US city of Pittsburgh, says the trick for giving a great gift is to think past the fleeting moment of actually handing it over, a concept he and colleagues Julian Givi and Elanor Williams found to be a common theme in studies on gift-giving, including a paper they authored.

3. Uniqueness doesn’t help

Sometimes something that many people desire or many others have can be exactly what someone wants. One study showed that we tend to focus on a recipient’s unique traits and personality as we shop for them. But this hyper-specificity leads us to ignore other aspects of their wants and needs, which may make us buy them an inferior gift. We also tend to want to buy different gifts for multiple people, even if they might all be happier with the same thing – and might never compare gifts at all.

With all the tips that science and psychology have taught us, it definitely gives us a lot to think about! Check out IRYNE’s collection for gifts to your friends and family this festive season!