Gift exchange research is informative
Our passion is finding ways to share gifts with family and friends in white elephant gift exchanges. Most of our efforts focus on white elephant gift ideas and the party games used to pass out the presents. Our recreation specialists use the science of game-play as a way to engage groups in a social gift giving event.
The Art of Gift Giving
Gift giving is something of a ritual. Birthdays, Christmas, Valentines Day, anniversaries, house warmings, leaving presents, graduation presents, thank you for looking after the goldfish gifts, the list goes on. There is always an occasion for a gift, even a ‘just because’ gift. Chocolates ‘just because’ I love you. But who gains more from the gift giving ritual? The giver or the receiver?
Extensive research has been carried out on this very subject. Sociologists, anthropologists, marketers and psychologists are all interested in the science of gift giving. All agree that gift giving is a sign of something greater than a simple act. It can be used to manipulate, display love, it is a strategic act. We tend to expect gift giving to be a two way process but if a gift isn’t reciprocated what does that mean for a relationship? Does it make the giver superior to the receiver?
What Make’s a Good Gift?
I was once told that a good present is something that the receiver would not buy for themselves. Of course this is a bit ambiguous; it doesn’t mean choosing something that the other person will hate. Instead, it means buying something that the other person will love but that they haven’t the money or time to buy it themselves. We all know the romantic adage of traveling across the country to track down the first edition of your lover’s favourite book, or pretending to go out for a phone call but actually running back to the shop where your wife cooed over a diamond necklace.
What though, if you really don’t know what the other person likes? Well, new research shows that it is perfectly acceptable to ask. Researchers at Stanford and Harvard have found that the majority of people would just rather you ask them what you want. Romance is dead. They used three studies to come to this conclusion, one of them being to ask respondents to recall a wedding gift they had received. Those that had received a gift that they requested were much more appreciative than for the gifts they hadn’t asked for. I personally am quite uncomfortable with the wedding list concept anyway.
Perhaps offering a gift that the receiver has asked for shows a greater love? A ‘I will give you anything you want’ kind of love? I don’t think it can detract from the perfect surprise gift though. Maybe we just live in a society where there is so much choice and so many different tastes so that knowing what someone wants is unrealistic.
Some say that gift giving benefits the giver more than the receiver. It’s a route to increased social capital, it makes an impression. It also means that the receiver ‘owes’ the giver, an implicit but accepted reality. Gift giving is a key part of building relationships, acting as a symbol of care and thoughtfulness.
With the recent economic crisis, many families might have restricted gift giving over the holiday season. How many people have you heard say ‘we’re not doing gifts this year’? A Harvard psychology professor says that this could be damaging our relationships. People who have shunned gift giving rituals are missing out on nurturing important connections with family and friends. Of course it doesn’t have to be a monetary gift, a homemade present could be just as affective. Gift giving is complex! And you thought it was ‘just’ flowers.
Emma Waight is a freelance fashion writer for www.clothes.org.uk. Follow Clothes fashion blog for style advice and fashion news.