Scientists now know: people want what they want. According to a study reported on the British Psychological Society blog, people had the best memories and preferred gifts that they asked for rather than surprise gifts -- although, as givers, their memories of giving surprise gifts were warmer and happier than their memories of giving gifts off the registry. From the report :
The third study involved 90 participants creating Amazon wish-lists and half of them playing gift-givers and half gift-receivers. Among the gift-givers, half were asked to choose a listed item to give to a recipient; the other half saw the list, but were instructed to choose a surprise item. Consistent with the first two studies, participants in a giving role didn't anticipate that it would make any difference to appreciation levels whether a gift was a surprise or selected from the wish-list. By contrast, participants in a receiving role were more appreciative of gifts selected from their wish-list and they perceived these gifts to be more thoughtful and more personal.Also, people want money, and like it more than presents.
It seems gift-givers and receivers are at odds with each other. Gift-recipients prefer to receive items they've asked for, and they think givers who fulfil this ideal are more thoughtful. Yet when we're the one who is doing the giving, we suffer a temporary blind-spot and fail to realise that people tend to prefer receiving what they told us they want. (Emphasis mine)
We have had a fair number of discussions about gift-giving in this space, and I think we all recognize this trend. It's frustrating, though, isn't it? For both parties. Gift-giving reduced to a mere transaction is meaningless. Yet most of us are trying to reduce our material footprint in some way, and genuinely only want the things we want, not "cute" knickknacks, or kitchen gadgets that will go unused, or books we won't get around to reading until 2020.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at email@example.com.